Reuters, October 03, 2002
NATO berates Croatia for defying war crimes court
BRUSSELS, Oct 2 (Reuters) - NATO berated Croatia on Wednesday for defying the United Nations war crimes tribunal, branding its refusal to hand over a former army chief of staff as unacceptable.
Alliance spokesman Yves Brodeur said that by challenging the indictment against General Janko Bobetko, Zagreb could hinder its own integration into Europe and undermine the international community's drive to establish peace in the western Balkans.
Bobetko, 83, is regarded at home as a hero of the 1991-95 independence war. His handover would almost certainly damage the reformist government, whose key goal is membership of the European Union.
"Cooperation with the tribunal is an obligation for all countries of the region," Brodeur told a news conference.
"Failing to do so is not only unacceptable but it could also have a negative impact on the international community's effort to establish peace and stability in the region."
Brodeur also suggested that Croatia's bid for membership of the defence alliance, a long-term process it began earlier this year, could be damaged by its refusal to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Croatia has lodged a formal complaint with the tribunal, arguing Bobetko is too ill to be arrested and transferred to the court in The Hague.
Bobetko was indicted for failing to prevent, investigate and punish the killing of civilians and destruction of property committed when Croatian troops withdrew from rebel Serb-held territory after a brief incursion in September 1993.
Turning to Yugoslavia, Brodeur said it too must cooperate with the war crimes court before it can join the Partnership for Peace (PfP), NATO's forum for security cooperation with non-members.
"Belgrade is not about to enter the PfP," he said. "The authorities have expressed an interest, which was noted here and welcomed."
"But...it was made clear to the authorities in Belgrade that they have to fulfil some obligations as well, including cooperation with the ICTY and including handing over suspected war criminals to the ICTY. That's been made very clear to them."