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Red Cross: POW Issue Violates Geneva
Claims Prisoners, Long Scheduled for Release,
Victins of Unbearing Psychological Pressure

International Committee of the Red Cross(SARAJEVO, April 3 Reuters)—The International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday criticised the continued failure of the former warring sides in Bosnia to release all their prisoners of war. The ICRC said in a statement the detention of 88 people was an unacceptable violation of the Geneva Conventions on the rules of war. The prisoner issue has dragged on unhappily for months, with Muslim, Serb and Croat authorities all breaching the terms of the Dayton peace deal for Bosnia which demanded all detainees be released by mid-January.

The Bosnian Serbs promised on Saturday to release their prisoners unilaterally but that pledge became watered down in reality to a series of small-scale prisoner exchanges after lengthy front-line bargaining with Croats. On Monday the Serbs freed four people, followed by a further seven yesterday. Croatia released 15 Serbs.

Western diplomats say they are disappointed they cannot break the factions out of the habit of trading POWs like cattle. "The former belligerents, in their persistent demands for reciprocity, are repeatedly taking certain detainees to sites for their possible release and then back into detention again," the ICRC said. The parties are "thus imposing unbearing psychological pressure upon them (the prisoners) and their families."

The ICRC says the mainly Muslim Bosnian government holds 28 people, the Bosnian Serbs 16 and the Bosnian Croats 44. But the government says it holds only 27, seven of whom are convicted war criminals that the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague has asked it keep in custody. International mediators have threatened to withhold reconstruction aid for Bosnia unless the three sides free all POWs in custody.

Additional resources
International Committee of the Red Cross
Operations in Western and Central Europe and the Balkans

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