The Serbian Prosecution Office announced on Friday that it has started criminal proceedings against 13 people suspected of helping Ratko Mladic and Stojan Zupljanin.
|Vladimir Vukcevic, Chief Prosecutor for the War Crimes and Bruno Vekaric, Deputy Prosecutor for War Crimes I Photo by Beta|
Six people are suspected of helping Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb army commander, who managed to evade capture for 16 years before being handed over to the Hague Tribunal, ICTY, in 2011.
One of those being investigated is known to be a retired high-ranking officer in the Serbian Army.
Stojan Zupljanin, the ex Chief of the Regional Police station in Banja Luka and current ICTY defendent, is said to have had the best organised network of helpers, as well as the long standing support of a number of high ranking politicians. Seven people are currently being prosecuted for helping him hide.
The Chief Prosecutor for War Crimes Vladimir Vukcevic refused to reveal names of those involved in hiding the ICTY defendants since they are protected by the presumption of innocence.
Mladic enjoyed the support of the Serbian Army until 2002, when Serbia adopted the Law on Cooperation with the ICTY. According to Vukcevic, after 2002, Mladic created a network of people, mainly from the Army of Republika Srpska, which allowed him to hide at eleven locations in Belgrade.
The majority of Mladic's accomplices were arrested in 2006 and are currently being tried by a Belgrade court.
At one point during the investigation, Mladic was within the reach of the authorities but they failed to arrest him, a failure which the Chief Prosecutor described as both unprofessional and amateurish. He added that this incident would be investigated further.
According to the prosecutor, the network of people who helped Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb president and ICTY defendant, cannot be prosecuted since they are all members of his close family.
Goran Hadzic, former president of the self-proclaimed Serbian autonomous regions in Croatia, was told about his indictment by someone close to the ICTY prosecution team, and left the house just before his arrest.
“The news that he had been indicted came from the Hague Tribunal when one very well-known person close to former prosecutor Carla Del Ponte informed a lawyer from Belgrade. The lawyer than called Hadzic and offered him his services,” said Vukcevic.
The prosecution also has information that Hadzic was hiding in monasteries across Serbia, though none of the clergy knew who he was.
The prosecutor claims that Rade Bulatovic, the former director of Belgrade Security Information Agency, knew of eleven addresses where Mladic was hiding in Serbia. He arrested his helpers, but failed to arrest Mladic himself.
Vukcevic said there is not enough evidence against Bulatovic to file charges, but that he would be interrogated.
Vukcevic stressed that the Serbian prosecution is carrying out the investigation, not because of pressure from the ICTY or the EU, but because every citizen that breaks the law must be punished.
The ICTY Chief Prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, in his biannual report to the UN Security Council presented at the beginning of June, expressed his concern at Serbia's delay in identifying all those who had helped Karadzic and Mladic stay on the run for so long.