USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS REQUESTED BY TOLIMIR
Serb nationalists chant slogans glorifying Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander wanted on genocide charges by a U.N. court, during a rally in Belgrade, Serbia. Many Serbs still view genocide fugitives as heroes of mythical proportions.
By Stefan Bos
Bosnian and Serbian security forces arrested Tolimir late Thursday as he tried to enter Serbia from Bosnia. He was later handed over to U.N, authorities in Banja Luka. Tolimir was considered the third most wanted war crimes suspect in the Balkans after General Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb Army chief, and Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb President.
In comments aired on Reuters television and other networks, relatives of those who died reacted with mixed emotions to the news of his arrest.
“This is good news for the victims, but it should have happened 12 years ago,” said Munira Subasic, a representative of the Association of Women from Srebrenica.
“I hope that [Radovan] Karadzic and [Ratko] Mladic will come out from their hideouts as well to face justice,” added Kada Horic, who survived the Srebrenica massacre.
Olga Kavran, the spokeswoman of the United Nations Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, shares that view. Kavran told reporters she hopes that Serbia will step up efforts to extradite war crimes suspects.
“There are still five remaining [top] fugitives, most of whom we believe to be within reach of Serbia,” she said. “Serbia is in violation of many international obligations by not delivering namely Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and the other fugitives, and that does not change.”
U.N. officials hope that Tolimir could provide key information about Mladic and Karadzic. Tolimir is thought by experts to have helped commander Mladic evade arrest since his indictment for war crimes in 1995. The European Union has urged Serbia to transfer more war crimes suspects. EU Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, made clear Friday that the arrest of Tolimir would pave the way to resume stalled talks with the Serbian government about establishing closer ties.
“…it is likely that if a chemical agent was used during the trek from Srebrenica to Tuzla, the people most affected by it are no longer alive to tell their story, having been killed by Serb forces following their incapacitation by BZ or a similar substance. Secondly, Human Rights Watch did not have the resources to do systematic sampling for BZ or a BZ-like compound. Moreover, Human Rights Watch has also not been able to obtain other types of evidence that have been said to exist, including transcripts of Serb radio transmissions from the time of the Srebrenica events…. The United States government apparently took the allegations seriously enough to conduct an investigation, reported to have taken place in late 1996 or early 1997. The results of this investigation have not been made public, but in late 1996 or early 1997 the U.S. intelligence community had information suggesting that chemical weapons may have been used in Srebrenica. The government’s refusal to release the findings may, according to a U.S. official interviewed by Human Rights Watch, be based on a belief that making this information public might hurt the international effort to effect peace in the former Yugoslavia.”
One official told Human Rights Watch in December 1996 that ”we do not see an advantage in declassifying those documents relating to chemical weapons use in Bosnia. We have spoken with people and received assurances that other channels are being pursued that we believe would be more effective and achieve a more favorable outcome than simply publicizing theme.” That is where it’s been left. (Source: The 1998 U.S. Congressional Hearing on Srebrenica Genocide)
(Photo of Peter McCloskey)
In 2006 opening statements, the U.N. Prosecutor McCloskey stated that “criminal orders in war are as a rule issued verbally”, and that a few exceptions existed to the rule. One of the most striking ones is a report sent on 21 July 1995 by General Zdravko Tolimir from Zepa to General Radomir Miletic, acting Chief of General Staff of the VRS. Tolimir is asking for help to crush some BH Army strongholds, expressing his view that “the best way to do it would be to use chemical weapons”. In the same report, Chemical Tolimir goes even further,proposing strikes against refugee columns leaving Zepa, because that would “force the Muslim fighters to surrender quickly”, in his opinion. (Source: SENSE Tribunal, 2006.)
The total Yugoslav chemical weapons arsenal contained sarin, mustard gas, BZ, and the tear gases CN and CS (all in large quantities), together with quite traditional products such as phosgene, chlorine picric acid, cyanogen chloride, adamsite, lewisite, and other materials, often only in laboratory quantities. (Source: Federation of American Scientists)
Key Srebrenica Massacre Suspect Transferred To UN Tribunal – republished from VOA News for Fair Use Only [Educational / Non-Commercial purposes].