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Fractured Bosnia Struggles to Form Police Force for All

The two most-wanted Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitives remain Radovan Karadzic, left, and Gen. Ratko Mladic.
The two most-wanted Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitives remain Radovan Karadzic, left, and Gen. Ratko Mladic. (File Photo By Srdjan Ilic -- Associated Press)

"We believe we have already given a lot of concessions on these security issues that are not required under Dayton," said Srpska's prime minister, Milorad Dodik, referring to the formation of a national army and intelligence service. "We have survived 15 deadlines for agreements, and if we do not meet this one, we'll survive as well."

The Srpska government earned praise from international officials this summer for cooperating with efforts to suspend 35 Srpska policemen while an investigation is conducted into their possible role in the Srebrenica massacre. "They came to us with a list, and we complied," said Milosevic, the chief police investigator. "But it is my strong belief that all of these men will be exonerated."

Hunting down the remaining war criminals, international officials here said, would help the Srpska police demonstrate that they have the good of the country in mind, rather than merely the interests of the Serb population.

Karadzic and Mladic are widely believed to enjoy protection from officials in both Serbia and Srpska. For years, they flaunted their lack of concern about arrest by appearing in public. More recently, they have kept a lower profile, but Elvis-type sightings continue. One report had Karadzic in Russia; the Russian Embassy in Sarajevo quickly denied it.

Gregorian said that Srpska police have cooperated more in recent years with international efforts to track the two men. The force is "currently helping shut down their support networks inside Bosnia," he said in a recent interview. "Could they do more? Yes. But the real problem is Serbia. Mladic is generally believed to be in Serbia, and Karadzic's last known location was Belgrade. If they wanted to find these guys, all it would take was a phone call or two."

A spokesman for the Serbian government declined to respond to Gregorian's remarks. Supporters of the men in Serbia, however, say the fugitives are farther afield. "As far as I know, both of the most-wanted men are not in the Balkans, perhaps in one of the former Soviet republics," said Kosta Cavoski, a law professor at Belgrade University and head of an organization called the Committee for the Truth about Radovan Karadzic, which argues that the fugitives should not be prosecuted.

The Srpska police say they conduct regular operations to find the fugitives and people who harbor and support them, and are starting to turn up pressure on their families to provide information. The main force carrying out such operations is the Special Police Unit, based on a guarded campus west of Banja Luka. Srpska flags, but no Bosnian national flags, fly throughout the facility.

With more resources than ordinary police -- including frogmen, trained mountain climbers, armored vehicles and a helicopter -- the 111-member unit carries out raids based on intelligence gathered by Bosnian and international agencies.

Twice in January 2006, the force deployed more than 40 officers after receiving intelligence on where Mladic might be hiding, staking out and raiding homes in Bratunac and Zepa. Both times the police came up empty. In another operation, they sent four surveillance specialists to a monastery in Petrovo but found no evidence Mladic had ever been there. Another tip resulted in a team scaling a rock face to search caves. Again, nothing.

"There is sometimes bad information, but anyone who says we are not looking is not paying attention," said Krajnovic Pedgrag, the special police unit's commander. "If there is ever a chance to arrest someone for war crimes, this unit will do its job."

Milosevic, of the investigative branch, said the most fruitful tactic recently has been pressuring the fugitives' relatives.

"There is a law that treats family members as helpers in the crimes," Milosevic said. "Every day we are at their doorstep, pressing them, taking them to police stations to be interrogated, searching their homes, their friends and acquaintances. We can make their lives miserable. We can block their accounts, seize their property."

Cavoski, the law professor, said that he visits regularly with Karadzic's family and that they are "in terrible condition."

"Only two out of nine are working because they are so harassed," he said.

The most recent step against family members, Milosevic said, was the seizure of a gas station owned by the family of Stojan Zupljanin, who has been charged with genocide for his role as operational commander of the Srpska police during the war.

"We are very close to him and closing in," Milosevic said. "We have information that he is living like a beast in the countryside or like a peasant in the fields. He is here, and his connections to Serbia have been cut. Even his family is against him. It is certain he will be arrested soon."

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