News 30 May 07

Serbs Arrest Seven over War Crimes in Slavonia

Belgrade _ Serbian police have arrested seven people on suspicion of killing or torturing non-Serbs during the war in Croatia, the Interior Ministry said.

The suspects were arrested late on Monday in connection with a series of gruesome killings in 1991 in the village of Lovas in eastern Slavonia, close to the border outside Serbia, the statement said.

The area, including the towns of Vukovar and Osijek, was the scene of heavy fighting between Croatian forces and local Serbs backed by the former Yugoslav army and paramilitaries from Serbia.

According to earlier witness accounts from the trial of the former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, before the UN war crimes court in The Hague, local paramilitaries and irregulars from Serbia rounded up Croat villagers from Lovas and killed them in a horrifying manner.

In one incident they forced 51 people to walk over an uncharted minefield. Twenty died in the process.

Croatia has already charged 17 people for war crimes in Lovas. But Zagreb was only able to detain one suspect as the rest were out of the country.

The arrests are a sign of growing cooperation between the former Yugoslav republics in the hunt for war crimes suspects.

This is taking place with the aim of mending ties damaged by Balkan wars, and also to comply with European Union demands that the countries of the region face up to their past before being allowed to join the bloc.

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