Rounding Up War Criminals

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PRIJEDOR, Bosnia: No matter how much NATO commander Gen. George Joulwan tried to downplay it, today's dramatic raid to capture Bosnian war crimes suspects marks an important and fundamental shift in NATO's enforcement of the Dayton peace accords, reports TIME Central Europe bureau chief Massimo Calabresi: "This represents a clear policy change. The fact that President Clinton approved U.S. logistical support forces for the raid means that he's willing to step up the effort." In the first active attempt to catch war crimes suspects since the accords were signed in 1995, British troops hit the northwestern town of Prijedor, killing former police chief Simo Drljaca in a firefight and capturing three others. "Drljaca was definitely a bad guy," says Calabresi. "Priedor was home to the worst detention camps and the most aggressive and brutal ethnic cleansing, all under his leadership as police chief. The fact that NATO forces came after him is significant because they had previously settled for his leaving office, but he was still very much in charge." The attack followed U.S. pressure for a more active effort in rounding up war criminals at NATO meetings in Madrid. Since its inception, the Hague tribunal has convicted only two minor figures, and only nine of 75 indicted suspects are in custody. "The Dayton agreement, where it's concerned with reunifying the country, is in complete tatters," Calabresi notes. "And until progress is made, U.S. troops cannot leave without war starting all over again. So if Clinton wants to get those troops out, he's got to start rounding up war criminals. Because everyone remembers Somalia, the Administration has been highly reluctant to cross the 'Mogadishu line' and go after local warlords. But now it looks like Clinton is willing to try."