Cablegate: Serbia: Prospects for Completion of Icty

DE RUEHBW #1097/01 2961428
R 221428Z OCT 08 ZDS




E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/22/2018

C. C) IIR 6 904 0010 09

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Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Jennifer Brush for reasons
1.4 (b/d)


1. (C) The Serbian government's cooperation with the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has
increased since parliamentary elections in May and took a
dramatic step forward just after the July formation of the
new government with the arrest of wartime Bosnian Serb
political leader Radovan Karadzic. The new government,
unhindered by uncooperative Democratic Party of Serbia
officials in the Security Information Agency and the Interior
Ministry, appears better able to investigate the fugitives'
whereabouts and act on leads. Cross-border information
sharing with NATO in Bosnia has also enhanced the
government's capabilities. The new, pro-Western government,
which ran on an EU integration platform, clearly has the will
to fulfill Serbia,s cooperation obligations. Political
leaders are for the first time talking about the moral
obligation to apprehend fugitives, not just the economic
benefits of joining the EU. While technical cooperation,
including providing wartime documents and finding witness,
will continue until the Tribunal concludes its work, the
government will need to make good on its promise to capture
and extradite the remaining fugitives and close that chapter
of its cooperation obligations once and for all. End Summary.

Government Cooperation Increased

2. (SBU) Following parliamentary elections in May, the
Serbian government stepped up activity to locate and arrest
the remaining four fugitives indicted for war crimes by the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
(ICTY). The Serbian government arrested two of the remaining
four ICTY fugitives, Karadzic advisor Stojan Zupljanin on
June 11 (Ref A), as coalition negotiations were being
finalized, and Karadzic himself on July 21, just two weeks
after the formation of the new Democratic Party-led coalition
government (Ref B). Karadzic's arrest fueled speculation
that the new, European-oriented government would soon arrest
Bosnian Serb wartime military leader Ratko Mladic, who is
accused of master-minding and executing the mass execution of
Bosnian Muslims during five years of war in Bosnia.
Observers had long thought that the arrests of Karadzic and
Mladic, the best known of the remaining four indictees, would
be the most difficult politically for the government given
that many Serbs still deny that the atrocities for which they
are accused took place.

3. (C) On October 8, the office of the War Crimes Prosecutor
announced that it had summoned for questioning seven
individuals suspected of helping hide Zupljanin. War Crimes
Prosecutor spokesman Bruno Vekaric said the individuals were
identified in a police investigation into Zupljanin's support
network, which revealed links to the support networks of
other ICTY fugitives, including Mladic and Karadzic. The
investigation had already yielded 30 names, and the operation
would continue for several more days, according to the
statement. (Note: the War Crimes Court has its own police
unit.) War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told us
privately that the first interrogated suspect, former
Vojvodina Executive Council President Koviljko Lovre,
admitted to assisting Zupljanin.

New Government More Capable and Willing

4. (C) Observers have long speculated whether the previous
government knew where Karadzic and Mladic were. Many
believed that the previous government had enough information
to locate the fugitives had it undertaken a vigorous
investigation. Details that have been surfacing about the
arrest of Karadzic suggest this may be true. B92 reported on
September 29 that Security Information Agency (BIA) director
Rade Bulatovic (DSS) had had information on Karadzic's
whereabouts for months. Both Bulatovic and former DSS Prime
Minister Kostunica publicly denied that they had known
Karadzic's whereabouts. A close advisor of Deputy Prime
Minister Ivica Dacic told us that Bulatovic had received the
information six months before the new government formed but
did not act on it, because of DSS Prime Minister Kostunica's

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ideological kinship with Karadzic and a lack of international
pressure. When the government changed, Bulatovic had
presented the information -- in exchange for the promise of
an ambassadorship -- to Tadic and his National Security
Advisor Miki Rakic, who then planned the arrest (Ref C).
(Note: There are rumors that Bulatovic will be appointed as
Ambassador to Syria.) National Council for Cooperation with
the Hague Tribunal President Rasim Ljajic publicly affirmed
that the government had begun developing information on
Karadzic earlier -- but did not specify when -- and had
arrested him when the security risk was lowest. Vukcevic
told us the arrest had come after a month of tracking
Karadzic's support network and that only three people in the
country had known about the operation in advance, including
himself, new BIA director Sasa Vukadinovic, and Rakic, who
reportedly orchestrated the Zupljanin arrest as well (Ref D).

5. (S/NF) Whatever the truth about when the government became
aware of Karadzic's whereabouts, several observers note that
the absence of DSS from the current coalition is key to the
renewed enthusiasm for capturing the fugitives. Humanitarian
Law Center Director Natasa Kandic told us that with Kostunica
gone, the DS now had the political will to complete ICTY
cooperation. ICTY Belgrade chief Deyan Mihov told us that
the atmosphere at BIA was completely different with Sasa
Vukadinovic in charge; cooperation with ICTY Belgrade had
improved markedly. Mihov said Bulatovic was evasive and
"could sell you anything." Bulatovic had consistently
avoided answering Mihov,s questions about whether BIA had
collected any DNA or fingerprints in its investigations of
Karadzic's whereabouts. Our contacts with BIA have also
improved since Vukadinovic took over; he welcomes visits from
the Embassy's Special Assistant Office and has said he wants
to be sure that Mladic is captured on Serbian soil to show
that Serbia is a law-abiding country. President of the
Special War Crimes Court Judge Sinisa Vazic told us that
previous Interior Minister Dragan Jocic (DSS) had politicized
ICTY cooperation and had not operated transparently,
hindering previous cases.

6. (SBU) Mihov told us he thought international pressure had
in part been responsible for the government's recent actions,
but that it was clearly willing and able to complete the
arrests with continued encouragement. According to Mihov,
President Tadic told ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz
(Ref E) that he knew Serbia needed to bring Mladic in to lift
Dutch opposition to Serbia's EU integration, but that Serbia
would capture Hadzic as well because ICTY cooperation was
both a moral and legal obligation. Mihov said Brammertz was
cautiously optimistic that Serbia would capture Mladic within
the next several months.

7. (SBU) Vukcevic's office told us it now had better
information to conduct its investigations, thanks to ongoing
meetings that began in June 2008 between the War Crimes
Prosecution and NATO/U.S. Corp Bosnia, which post
facilitated. Vukcevic said the information exchanged,
particularly on the networks of supporters, enhanced Serbia's
ability to search for ICTY fugitives.

Government's Message of Moral Responsibility

8. (SBU) In the months since Karadzic's arrest, President
Tadic, Ljajic, Vukcevic, and other officials have made
several public statements about the importance of capturing
the remaining fugitives, not just for pragmatic reasons but
also because of the need for reconciliation with the past.
DS Vice President Dusan Petrovic assured us that the
government placed importance on helping the public to
understand and overcome the past and promote reconciliation.

9. (SBU) ICTY Coordination Council Director Dusan Ignjatovic
informed us the government planned a series of public
discussions to explain the events of the 1990s and the
importance of ICTY's work. In cooperation with the OSCE and
ICTY Belgrade, the ICTY Coordination Council held its first
program on August 18 in the eastern Serbian town of Zajecar.
Speakers from OSCE, ICTY, and the Coordination Council
appeared on a local prime time television talk show and took
calls from viewers. Ignatovic said the government was
considering expanding the program to other towns and
eventually broadcasting the discussions on national
broadcaster Radio-Television Serbia. He said that Serbian
citizens would not experience any epiphanies in their
understanding of the events of the 1990s but with careful
messages would eventually come to terms with the past.
Ignjatovic said this message was a tough sell with most
Serbs, since the acquittals in 2008 of Bosniak commander

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Naser Oric, acquitted July 3 of murdering Serbian prisoners
of war, and Kosovo Liberation Army commander Rasmush
Haradinaj, acquitted April 3 of targeting and killing
civilians, heightened a sense that ICTY was biased against

10. (SBU) Mihov told us the challenge for the government
would be to compete with sensationalist, nationalist coverage
in the tabloids, which still had a chief role in forming
popular opinion. Mihov said Tadic had confided to Brammertz
that he felt the government had missed an opportunity to
educate people about war crimes immediately after Karadzic's
arrest when the tabloid press was consumed with
sensationalizing details of Karadzic's false identity as a
natural medicine guru. The government needed to show ICTY
indictees as criminals, not heroes, Mihov said.

Beyond the Arrests

11. (SBU) The capture of the remaining indictees remains the
most high profile aspect of ICTY cooperation, but there are
other important elements to Serbia's ICTY cooperation, such
as handing over documents to the prosecution and serving
subpoenas to ICTY witnesses. Although these elements are not
as high-profile, ICTY Belgrade's Mihov told us it was
essential for Serbia to continue to cooperate in these areas
in order to obtain a favorable report from Brammertz. Mihov
said Serbia was mostly compliant with this technical
cooperation. For the most part Serbia was complying with
document requests, he said, although ICTY had had to go to
court to obtain some national security-related documents.
The government was still holding out on one document, but
Mihov had high expectations of receiving it. Mihov said
there were also some issues with locating witnesses but most
were not contentious. He added that the ICTY had no
complaints about how the government was handling allegations
of witness intimidation. According to the war crimes
prosecution's statement on the investigation into Zupljanin's
network, one of the elements under investigation was witness

12. (SBU) Serbia is also prosecuting a number of war crimes
cases domestically. War Crimes Court President Judge Sinisa
Vazic told us that cases in the war crimes special court were
proceeding slowly, in large part due to space issues.
Vazic said there was not enough space to handle the 11
ongoing war crimes trials and 25 ongoing investigations.
(Note: The war crimes court, built with USG technical and
financial support, has only three courtrooms equipped for
multi-defendant trials and only two courtrooms for
investigative interviews, and it shares this space with the
Corruption Special Court. The courtrooms operate in two
shifts, but each case can be heard only threeto four days per
month.) Vukcevic told us he was proud he had made
significant progress in 2008 on several cases that had
previously been moving slowly, including the Zvornik, Lovas,
Bytyqi Brothers, Suva Reka, and Ovcara cases.


13. (S) We welcome the shift in the government's message that
ICTY cooperation will not only bring economic rewards --
which opinion polls show to be the biggest concern of Serbian
citizens -- but is also a moral obligation. The new
government at least is talking about shared values with the
West and being a good neighbor. Having gone to great lengths
to demonstrate its will to capture and hand over the
remaining fugitives, the Serbian government now needs to
deliver. There is a window of opportunity of high
expectations. If Serbia wishes to reap the rewards of
European integration and truly move beyond its painful past,
now is the time to make the final push in seeking out and
capturing these fugitives. Whether for pragmatic or more
elevated reasons, we now believe the government will do its
utmost to bring in Mladic and Hadzic. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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