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Source:1996 Reuters

NATO's Smith says unearthing Bosnia war graves not troops' job

TROGIR, Croatia (Jan 14, 1996 12:40 p.m.) - NATO's commander in Bosnia, U.S.
Admiral Leighton Smith, said on Sunday that his peacekeeping troops did not
have a mission to pursue war criminals or unearth mass graves.

A United Nations war crimes tribunal is located in The Hague and the issue
has been spotlighted by reports that Bosnian Serbs had hidden up to 8,000
bodies in mineshafts at Ljubija in northwestern Bosnia.

The United States also says there are mass graves near Srebrenica, a Moslem
enclave in eastern Bosnia that fell to the Serbs last June.

"Our forces are not (here) to pursue indicted war criminals," said Admiral
Smith, who commands the NATO-led peace Implementation Force (IFOR) in

"However, if in the course of our normal duty, we come across them, or they
come across us, then our obligation would be to detain them and turn them
over to the international tribunal," he told reporters.

"But I say again we do not have a mission which would require us to go seek
them out," said Smith during a visit to an IFOR field hospital at the
Croatian town of Trogir.

"Investigating mass graves is not part of my job. Establishing an
environment in which others can do their job is part of my job," said Smith.
"I would do that if it did not prevent me from doing others of the mission."

IFOR has repeatedly stressed that it does not want to be distracted from its
main task of separating Bosnia's warring parties rather than acting as a

NATO said earlier on Sunday it had not yet received any requests from the
U.N. war crimes tribunal or other organisations to help escort investigators
checking allegations of mass graves in Bosnia.

NATO spokesman Colonel Mark Rayner told reporters IFOR would provide
security for investigators if asked and if the peace force had the resources
and time to do so.

"We're not aware of any occasion on which the appropriate authorities have
tried to gain access...We've received no formal requests into the
headquarters for assistance," he said.

"If IFOR judges that assistance is required and other operational
commitments allow, IFOR will provide the security under which investigation
can be undertaken."

NATO had not set up any special patrols to watch the mine at Ljubija but
alliance troops were in the area as part of their general activities.

Rayner declined to say whether NATO would force the Serbs who guard the mine
to open the way for investigators.

"Let's deal with it one step at a time. Let's wait and see when the
appropriate authorities want to go and look at it and let's see if anyone
tries to stop them," he said.

NATO officials say that helping the search for mass graves is not a priority
and that they are busy for now in making sure that the military forces of
the warring parties are withdrawn behind zones of separation by a deadline
of this Friday.
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Source:IFOR News, Morning update, 14 June 1996

IFOR MORNING NEWS, 14 JUNE, 1996: NATO nations affirmed their determination Thursday to arrest war crimes suspects in Bosnia and said progress will be more likely in the coming months. Alliance Secretary-General Javier Solana told reporters the NATO-led peace force will be increasingly likely to find suspects as it turns its attention this summer from dividing warring factions to rebuilding civil life in the war-torn country. "Apprehending of war criminals and the investigation of war crimes are essential to bring justice and durable peace to Bosnia," the 16 NATO defense ministers said in a statement after a day-long meeting. However, ministers said they had no plans to change NATO's longstanding policy of only arresting suspects its forces come upon in the course of their routine duties in Bosnia. "NATO is not a detective agency, it's not a police force," said British Defense Secretary Michael Portillo. He added, however: "The willpower of the international community to bring indicted war criminals to justice is very strong and unshakable."
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Source:Human Rights Watch, November 18, 1997

Good neighbors? NATO and indicted war crimes suspects in Bosnia and Hercegovina

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, New York/Brussels, November 18, 1997: A new map released today by Human Rights Watch confirms that as a practical matter, NATO troops must encounter indicted war crimes suspects in the course of their regular duties in Bosnia and Hercegovina. The map shows how SFOR and indicted persons are in close proximity to one another in at least 8 locations. Yet, aside from a solitary action in Prijedor in July, NATO forces never have arrested indicted war crimes suspects. "The map shows that NATO's failure to arrest has nothing to do with its inability to locate indicted persons. It's a grievous failure of political will," charged Holly Cartner, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki.

Released to coincide with the second anniversary of the Dayton peace agreement on November 21, the map shows the location of major bases of the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) and the whereabouts of 41 named war crimes suspects still at large in Bosnia and Hercegovina. According to the map, the British sector contains 23 indicted war crimes suspects, the French sector 8, including Radovan Karadzic, and the American sector 8, including Ratko Mladic. "You or I wouldn't want a war criminal for a neighbor, so why do NATO forces?" Cartner added.

Two years after Dayton, almost three-quarters of those indicted for war crimes in former Yugoslavia have yet to face justice. Human Rights Watch asserts that NATO arrests provide the only real chance for justice in Bosnia. Recent cases from towns such as Foca confirm that NATO troops do not arrest even when they do encounter indicted persons. "Unless the United States, the United Kingdom and France order the troops under their command to make arrests, indicted war crimes suspects in Bosnia will never be brought to justice," said Ms. Cartner.

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Source: Washington Post, Thursday, April 23, 1998

Bodies Reported Missing From Bosnian Grave

SARAJEVO, Bosnia: Bodies have been covertly removed from a mass grave site believed to contain the victims of some of the Bosnian war's most gruesome massacres, U.N. officials said.

The officials refused to speculate about who had removed the bodies or how many might have been disturbed. Bosnian federation officials have said that exhumations in Serb-controlled areas of the republic over the past two years prove that bodies were removed to hide wartime atrocities.