The European Union shortsightedly undercut its own influence by announcing the resumption of talks with Serbia following the recent arrest of a war crimes suspect while his commander, Ratko Mladic, remains at large, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch said that the European Union must now use its remaining leverage to obtain Serbia’s full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Serbia facilitated the arrest of Zdravko Tolimir, a Bosnian Serb wartime general wanted by the tribunal on genocide charges, on Thursday, but his former commander Ratko Mladic remains at liberty.

“Tolimir’s arrest is undoubtedly progress, but it does not merit the resumption of talks with Serbia,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program. “But with the talks now on, the EU must use its leverage to insist on Belgrade’s full cooperation with the ICTY, including the prompt arrest of Ratko Mladic.”

In May 2006, the European Commission suspended negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Serbia over its continuing failure to cooperate with the ICTY and, specifically, to deliver Ratko Mladic – an indicted architect of genocide at Srebrenica.

In February, EU ministers of foreign affairs indicated support for the resumption of talks with Serbia provided that the new government “shows clear commitment and takes concrete and effective action for full cooperation with the ICTY.” The EU enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn, later publicly indicated the European Union’s willingness to resume negotiations with less than full cooperation.

The International Court of Justice ruled in February that Serbia’s failure to transfer Mladic to the ICTY amounts to a continuing violation of the Genocide Convention, and it ordered Serbia to cooperate fully with the tribunal.

“Tolimir’s arrest is a welcome start. But if Serbia wants to show it is serious about cooperation, it should comply with the World Court’s ruling and hand over Ratko Mladic,” said Dicker. “It should also share intelligence and information about its efforts with the prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal.”