News 04 Mar 11

Bosnian General Divjak Arrested on Serbian Warrant

A Bosnian Serb general who was arrested last night in Vienna on a Serbian warrant has been placed in extradition custody for 15 days.

Eldin Hadzovic

General Jovan Divjak is suspected by Serbia of war crimes related to his alleged involvement in an attack on a convoy of the Yugoslav People's Army as it was leaving Sarajevo in May 1992.

This case is particularly significant because Divjak, who was born to Serb parents, fought for Bosnia's state army during the war. He is a self-declared Bosnian.

Divjak was placed in custody by an Austrian court on Friday, Haris Hrle, Bosnian ambassador to Austria, confirmed to BIRN-Justice Report.

Meanwhile, the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina has filed a request for the extradition of Divjak to Bosnian judicial authorities, based on an ongoing investigation into the events that happened on Dobrovoljacka Street in Sarajevo. Serbia said on Friday that it also planned to request Divjak's extradition.

Following demonstrations in support of Divjak in front of the Bosnian embassy in Austria on Thursday night, futher demonstrations were held to show support in front of the Austrian embassy in Sarajevo on Friday. Some 200 people were present.

Zeljko Komsic and Bakir Izetbegovic, members of the Bosnian State Presidency, addressed the public today in relation to Divjak's arrest.

Both of them said that Divjak would get any kind of assistance he needed. Komsic stressed that he had spoken to him after his arrest.

“He is calm and he feels well. He requires and expects that the whole issue will be considered within the legal framework and no political connotations will be given to the case. I must say that this case definitely has the dimension of a political case. Authorities from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Austria are involved,” Komsic said.

Boris Grubesic, spokesman for the Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that his office has already contacted the authorities from Bosnia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Security.

He added: “Bosnia's Prosecution and the Court are solely responsible for war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Bosnia's Foreign Ministry has also sent a protest note to Serbia over the arrest.

The retired general of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, ABiH, is on Serbia's list of those considered responsible in the so-called “Dobrovoljacka case”, which stems from incidents that occured on May 3, 1992.

Divjak was a direct participant in the events on Dobrovoljacka street in Sarajevo in May 1992. Soldiers from the former Yugoslav People's Army, JNA, were attacked as they withdrew from the capital as part of an agreement to release Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, who had been captured by Serb forces. A number of officers and soldiers from the JNA were killed in the incident.

Serbia's War Crimes Prosecutor has charged 19 persons for the alleged crimes in Dobrovoljacka Street, including the late Alija Izetbegovic, Mustafa Hajrulahovic Talijan and Jusuf Juka Prazina.

Ejup Ganic, a former member of the Bosnian Presidency, was arrested last year in London based on a Serbian arrest warrant for this case. After a several month-long court battle, a court in London dismissed Serbia's request for his extradition to face charges.

The arrest of Divjak has been condemned by several wartime Bosnian politicians. Ganic reacted to Divjak's arrest on Friday, saying that the charges had proven to be unfounded. "The Hague tribunal has taken a position on it and of course, the London court in my case handed down a verdict," he stated.

Haris Silajdzic, head of the Party for BiH, SBiH, says that the arrest of General Divjak is another undeniable attempt by Serbia to review the character of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. "That is after they failed to prove that it was a war crime before the Hague Tribunal, before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and before a court in London..."

Serbian NGOs, including the Helsinki Committee, have condemned the arrest of Divjak.

Sarajevans have also announced protests against the arrest on Saturday at 1 p.m. in front of the Austrian Embassy in Sarajevo.

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