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Tribunal Calls for Release of 4 Muslim Refugees
Says No Cause for Detention
by Yugoslav Government

Link to War Crimes Tribunal BELGRADE, April 23 (Reuters) — The U.N. war crimes tribunal has found no cause for the detention of four Bosnian Muslem refugees by the Yugoslav government and they should be freed as soon as possible, U.N. officials said on Tuesday. Nine Muslim refugees held by Yugoslav authorities as alleged war criminals were released on Saturday and flown out on a U.N.-chartered plane but four others were kept in custody pending further investigation.

The U.N. tribunal in The Hague had since examined documents on the four submitted by Belgrade and determined there was no evidence to warrant detaining them, a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman said. Two of the refugees had been suspected by Serbian-led Yugoslav authorities of involvement in atrocities against Bosnian Serbs, and two were detained as witnesses to alleged war crimes.

"The tribunal has written back to the Yugoslav authorities saying that on the basis of the material submitted so far, there are no sufficient grounds for issuing arrest warrants," said Marwan Elkhoury at the UNHCR's branch office in Belgrade. Elkhoury said the tribunal had asked the Yugoslav authorities to deal with the four according to procedures for repatriation of Bosnian war refugees set by the Dayton peace treaty — that is, to let them go where they want as soon as possible. "The alleged incidents mentioned by Yugoslav authorities do not fall within the scope of ongoing tribunal investigations, so the tribunal does not want to interview the four in connection with crimes or as witnesses,'' Elkhoury said.

He said the UNHCR, which had protested against the detention of the refugees, would now take its case back to the Yugoslav foreign ministry and again demand their swift release. "The two held as witnesses should be freed immediately, the other two we think should be freed too — if they eventually need to be interrogated, we can follow that up with the (Muslim-led) Bosnian government," Elkhoury said. There was no immediate comment from Yugoslav authorities.

The four refugees, from an original group of 796 who fled the 1995 Bosnian Serb conquest of the Muslim enclaves of Zepa and Srebrenica, remain at Padinska Skela prison near Belgrade, where they have been held since April 10. Yugoslav authorities confined the refugees to the Sljivovica camp after their July 1995 arrival in Serbia. Most were eventually allowed to go to third countries, while 211 were freed in early April to return to government-controlled Bosnian territory. Serbian police detained 13 at that time for investigation of war crimes. Nine of them were exonerated by Yugoslav authorities and flown out last weekend to Bosnia via Croatia. The UNHCR did not want to take them overland across Bosnian Serb territory where they risked being arrested by police.

Additional resources
Apr 23 · NATO: Refugees Used as Political Pawns
Apr 22 · Refugee Showdown near Doboj
Apr 20 · Violence Expected as Refugees Return Home
Apr 20 · In 9 of 10 Cases, Authorities Blocking Refugee Return
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia United Nations

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