Accused of Role in Burning Children Alive
During Ethnic Cleaning in Ahmici, near Vitez
(AMSTERDAM, April 1Reuters) Bosnian Croat General Tihomir Blaskic surrendered himself on Monday to the U.N. war crimes tribunal on former Yugoslavia and was taken to jail to spend the night in a cell. After arriving in Amsterdam aboard a commercial flight from the Croatian capital Zagreb, he was driven in a police motorcade to the tribunal's detention centre just outside The Hague, the tribunal said. He was due to appear before the tribunal on Wednesday when he would be asked to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges against him, a tribunal spokeswoman said.
Blaskic was indicted last year with offences arising from an ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the Lasva Valley area of central Bosnia from May 1992 to May 1993. As regional commander of the Bosnian Croat militia at the time, the tribunal said he was responsible for killing or expelling almost all of the Muslims in the area. Blaskic and five other Bosnian Croat leaders were charged with various atrocities, including an alleged massacre at the village of Ahmici, near Vitez. Scores of Muslim civilians were killed in Ahmici, including children who appeared to have been burned alive.
One of Blaskic's lawyers, Zvonimir Hodak, told reporters in Zagreb before boarding the plane for the Netherlands that the general expected to be back in Croatia by Easter. "I absolutely think that he can be acquitted. If we did not think we have a real chance, we would not be going there voluntarily," he said. Blaskic's wife, who recently gave birth to a son, wept as he left her at Zagreb airport accompanied by four bodyguards and a group of friends.
His voluntary surrender was clinched in weekend talks between U.S. Defence Secretary William Perry and Croatian Defence Minister Gojko Susdak. Western governments have been pressing Croatia and Serbia to turn over those indicted by the tribunal, as they pledged to do under the Dayton peace accords agreed last November.
The tribunalcreated by the U.N. Security Council in 1993is the first international body for the prosecution of war crimes since the Nuremberg trials of defeated Nazi leaders after World War Two. To date it has indicted 57 suspects46 Serbs, eight Croats and three Muslims. Blaskic is the third indicted suspect taken into custody at the tribunal's detention centre at Scheveningen jail in The Hague. The other two are both Bosnian Serbs.
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
Account of the Killings at Ahmici
Interview with Witness to Killings at Vitez
Charges Relating to Alleged Atrocities in the Lasva Valley From BosNet/BosNews
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