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UN Flies 9 Bosnians from Belgrade, 4 Still Held
No Evidence of War Crime Involvement
By Jovan Kovacic

BELGRADE, April 20 (Reuters) — The United Nations flew out nine Bosnian Muslim refugees who had been held in Belgrade as suspected war criminals, but four of their colleagues remained in custody, a U.N. official said. All the refugees were survivors of the Bosnian Serb conquest of the U.N.-declared ``safe areas'' of Srebrenica and Zepa who fled to the Sljivovica camp in neighboring Yugoslavia.

The other four were still being held in Padinska Skela prison near Belgrade, where they have been in custody since April 10. "The authorities are now seeking additional information on the remaining four Muslims regarding possible war crimes," Vesna Petkovic, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Belgrade, told Reuterss. She said the nine released Muslims would fly to the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, via Zagreb, on a U.N.-charterd aircraft.

The Yugoslav authorities freed them after finding no evidence they participated in or witnessed war crimes. The Yugoslav government said it had written to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague on Tuesday to ask how it should handle the cases of the remaining four detainees. The Serb authorities separated the 13 Muslims from a group of more than 200 refugees from Srebrenica and Zepa as they were preparing to board buses bound for Bosnia.

The refugees had been at the Sljivovica camp in Serbia since September. A 14th detained refugee from the camp held as a suspected war criminal was found to have been falsely arrested due to mistaken identity, the UNHCR said, and was awaiting resettlement in a third country. The UNHCR, which has complained that the detentions violate the Dayton peace accords, sent an envoy to Belgrade on Tuesday and announced that the government had promised all 13 would soon be released.

"They (the Belgrade authorities) have had more than eight months to investigate these men, and still they have nothing, so we don't think this is justified," a UNHCR spokesman said. "We consider this a violation of all the earlier agreements — Dayton, the Rome Accord and the Refugee Convention," he said.

Additional resources
Apr 19 · Serbia to Release More Detained Refugees
Apr 11 · Prisoners of War Come Home, Telling of Abuse
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

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