SUN, 17 JAN 1999 23:15:46 GMT
AIM Sarajevo, 8 January, 1999
The prosecutor of the International Tribunal for war crimes in the Hague informed the authorities in B&H that the Tribunal had given its approval with criminal prosecution of Fikret Abdic, former member of B&H Presidency and president of the so-called autonomous province of Western Bosnia which had existed on the territory of Bosnian Krajina during the war in B&H. The agreement of the Hague Tribunal arrived after the prosecutor had inspected criminal charges against Abdic sent to the Hague pursuant the rules from the Roman Agreement. The indictment, among other charges Fikret Abdic with violations of human and war rights, the Geneva Convention and opening camps on the part of B&H territory which was called autonomous province of Western Bosnia in the period between 1993 and 1995, at the time of "inter-Muslim" conflicts. According to the indictment, there were several ten thousand children, women and elderly in thess camps.
Fikret Abdic, who is living in Croatia (Rijeka), rejects the charges saying that he has not received any information from the Hague Tribunal and accuses the Bosnian member of the Presidency of B&H and president of the ruling Party of Democratic Action (SDA) Alija Izetbegovic and secret police of this party, Investigation and Documuntation Agency (AID) of having staged the proceedings against him.
The step that followed was taken by B&H authorities which made a verbal demand to the Republic of Croatia for extradition of Fikret Abdic. But the impression is that B&H authorities do not know who should do it - the ministry of foreign affairs or the ministry of justice. At the same time, signals are arriving from Croatia according to which one can conclude that Croatia does not intend to extradite Abdic. Abdic has double citizenship - that of B&H and Republic of Croatia, and according to its constitution the latter is not obliged to extradite its citizens to other states. On the other hand, Croatia is a signatory of the Roman Agreement and this document should be superior to the Constitution of Croatia. They say in Croatia that they do not know whether B&H is a signatory of the European Convention on Extradition and that the two states have not signed a "bilateral contract on extradition". The B&H party marked the Agreement on Special Relations as a possible solution, but everything would be much clearer if B&H sent an official demand for extradition. At the same time the Una-Sana cantonal prosecutor's office informs that it is ready for the beginning of the trial which is quite uncertain because B&H has twice already unsuccessfully demanded extradition of Fikret Abdic.
In the Party of Democratic Action they are not concealing satisfacion with the obtained agreement for criminal prosecution of Abdic, but they find it difficult to conceal fear of the possibility that the collected evidence is insufficient for proving guilt, which was shyly hinted at by one of the articles in a daily close to the leadership of this party. Adnan Jahic, spokesman of the SDA, claims that his party is not disappointed because this case was not kept in the Hague but returned to B&H: "The objective is that the criminal is brought to justice and in this context it is irrelevant who he will be tried by, whether it will be the Hague or B&H judiciary. We are satisfied that the Hague has established that there is founded suspicion that Abdic is guilty", says Jahic and adds that he does not think that evidence of Abdic's guilt is insufficient, but that in decision-making that this case be returned to national judiciary the "internal stand or internal logic of the Hague Tribunal whether they will take charge of a case or transfer it to the national judiciary" was decisive. But, the spokesman of the SDA adds, Bosnian judiciary is incorporated in judiciary in general and the only important thing is that the one who is guilty is brought to justice.
The Hague Tribunal broke its own law on giving no comments of its actions and decisions, and the prosecutor of the Tribunal Louise Arboure declared: "We did not question witnesses nor did we evaluate credibility of submitted evidence, but only whether the evidence was sufficient pursuant the international legal standards, not for conviction, but for the arrest and for starting proceedings". According to Arboure, "the case of Abdic for the time being is not in the sphere of interest of the Tribunal, but the possibility has not been eliminated that the Tribunal will demand taking over of his case from B&H judiciary at a later stage". She added that the task of all governments was to prosecute persons suspected of war crimes which were in their jurisdiction and that the Tribunal had neither sufficient money nor space to deal with all the indicted persons.
In the Party of Democratic Action, they are acting as if the case is closed and Abdic proven guilty. On the other hand, Abdic gives his own view of the matter: "This is staged by Adamir Jerkovic, one of the advisors of member of B&H Presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, president of SDA. In his statement carried by all the media they claim that the Hague Tribunal has allowed my persecution. But it does not refer to punitive persecution of Fikret Abdic, but possibly it is an agreement which allows B&H jusdiciary to carry out the investigation against any citizen if it assesses that there is foundation for that", says Abdic and claims that he established no camps or collective centres, but that in Krajina "members of my units were tortured and liquidated".
As part of the hue and cry in the media, the Democratic National Community (DNZ), the party whose president and founder and candidate for member of B&H Presidency at the last elections was Fikret Abdic, also issed a statement. They believe that the whole case was "fabricated" because "Izetbegovic is afraid of Abdic's return to B&H". At the last general elections Abdic ranked second by the number of votes won for the member of state Presidency, and in 1990 in the first multi-party elections Abdic had 200 thousand more votes than Izetbegovic, so he should have been the chairman of that Presidency. According to the words of Abdic, he gave up this post to Izetbegovic. A statement for the public was issued by the DNZ in which they accuse the leradership of the SDA for opening the "Abdic case" at the moment "when it is faced with increasing social unrest, economic collapse, crime and plunder, so it is diverting attention of the citizens from problems it is not capable of solving and it is trying to direct it in the wrong direction...". People from the DNZ wonder "what kind of a state and authorities are they when indictments are med up and published from the office of Alija Izetbegovic, and does not this prove who and from where directs what we call B&H judiciary".
This stand of DNZ should be observed in the light of the statement of a spokesman of the Hague Tribunal carried by TV B&H which says that the Tribunal gave its approval for initiating proceedings back in November last year!? Why did they wait a couple of months with publication of the approval? The spokesmn of the SDA says that he knows nothing about it, but this appeared in media reports. If the approval had really arrived in Novemebr, it is curious that it is made public now, at the moment immediately preceeding the arbitration decision on Brcko, at the time of unsuccessful agreement on nomination of the prime minister of Republika Srpska, at the time when many analysts announce economic collapse of the country, when the international community is insisting on accelerating privatization, the reform of judiciary... Is this really an attempt to divert attention of the public from a series of burning problems in B&H?
Along with everything listed, the analysts point out to another aspect. All this time Abdic was accused of cooperation with the Serb and the Croat party on the territory of former Yugoslavia while war was raging in this space and while these three parties were at war with each other. The very possibility of a trial opens the question what will come out in the open about this cooperation, but also whether some other Abdic's so far secret knowledge will be revealed on activities of the the third party in B&H, of those with whom Abdic was in the same party in the very beginning.
The court proceedings have come after reform of B&H judiciary had loudly been announced in Madrid. The Tribunal has for the first time decided to comment on its moves concerning one of its decisions and "indictment". Was the whole case just a test for B&H judiciary and a check of the possibilities of implementation of a part of the Madrid conclusions, time will show. After all, spokesman of the Office of the High Representative, Simon Haselock, says that the OHR has no right to comment on the further course of this process, but only to supervise it in the sense of control of implementation of the Roman agreement.