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Bold Arrest Action in Bosnia Contrasts with Clinton Statement on Karadzic

(New York)  - Human Rights Watch applauds NATO's apprehension of two indicted war crimes suspects in Vitez municipality. According to sources in Bosnia and Hercegovina, Dutch forces attached to the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR), apprehended Vlatko Kupreskic and Anto Furundzija early Thursday, December 18. Kupreskic, publicly indicted by the ICTY for his role in attacks on Bosnian Muslim civilians in the Lasva valley, was arrested in Ahmici, the village where the alleged atrocities took place. Furundzija, the subject of a sealed indictment for war crimes, is accused of being a commander of the "Jokers," a special forces unit within the Bosnian Croat Army (which reportedly included Miroslav Bralo) alleged to have committed war crimes in the Lasva valley. 
 
The Vitez arrests contrast sharply with today's remarks by President Clinton that peace in Bosnia can be made to work without the arrest of Radovan Karadzic. President Clinton's view flies in the face of the growing consensus that Karadzic is the single largest obstacle to the implementation of the Dayton agreement. It is especially cynical because the President makes his remarks on the same day that the Administration decided in principle to an extension of the US military participation in the NATO-led peace force. "Extending the mandate is not enough," according to Holly Cartner, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, "fulfilling that mandate and making peace work in Bosnia and Hercegovina will require the kind of leadership and political will that led to the Vitez action."  
 
Thursday's arrests reconfirm that encounters leading to apprehension can be arranged in accordance with SFOR's existing mandate, even when the indictments are public. Two European countries, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have now taken the lead in operations to apprehend indicted war crimes suspects in Bosnia and Hercegovina. By contrast, the United States' failure to arrest and Clinton's remarks indicate US willingness to tolerate the continuing influence of indicted war crimes suspects. Human Rights Watch urges the United States and France to arrest all persons indicted for war crimes in Bosnia and Hercegovina in their sectors, including Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

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