Bosnian Serb General Zdravko Tolimir was detained Thursday, May31, and flown to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague on charges related to the killings of thousands of Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Under tight security, Bosnian Serb General Zdravko Tolimir left Bosnia Herzegovina, where he once ordered his forces to attack Muslim areas.
The 58-year-old Tolimir was a senior aide to the Bosnian Serbs’ wartime military commander General Ratko Mladic during the slaughter of Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica in 1995.
The United Nations described it as one of the worst cases of "ethnic cleansing" during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Several Christian groups, including Samaritan’s Purse of Franklin Graham, son of American evangelist Billy Graham, have since tried to comfort children who survived this and other atrocities.
Many children have received shoeboxes with toys as part of efforts to make them smile again, Franklin Graham has said.
Bosnian and Serbian security forces arrested Tolimir, as he attempted to enter Serbia from Bosnia, officials revealed. He was later handed over to UN 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.
Yet, 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 Hotic, who survived the Srebrenica massacre. "Now I can see my loved ones only on photographs, while they are still free…"
That view is shared by Olga Kavran, the spokeswoman of the UN’s Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.
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."
UN 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, June 1, that the arrest of Tolimir would pave the way to resume stalled talks with the Serbian government about establishing closer ties. (This BosNewsLife News Story also airs on Voice Of America.(http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-06-01-voa64.cfm )