EU, Serbia Spar over Accused War Criminal Mladic

Serbia is pressed to surrender accused war criminal Ratko Mladic or risk losing hope of joining the European Union. Michael Scharf, a leading expert on the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal and a professor at Case-Western Reserve University in Cleveland, offers his insights to Scott Simon.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive who is accused of genocide at Srebrenica and a bloody three and a half year siege at Sarajevo, has reportedly been spotted at weddings, ski resorts and other public places in the former Yugoslavia. But so far he's eluded international authorities. The European Union has given Serbia until the end of the month to hand him over or risk of losing all hope of joining that body. But this week, despite reports that General Mladic is in poor health and in negotiations to turn himself in, Serbian officials say they are no closer to capturing him.

Michael Scharf is a leading expert on the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He's co-founder of the Public International Law and Policy Group, and teaches international criminal law at Case Western Reserve University. He joins us now from the studios of WCLV in Cleveland. Mr. Scharf, thanks very much for being with us.

Professor MICHAEL SCHARF (Case-Western Reserve University; Co-founder, Public International Law and Policy Group): Good to talk to you, Scott.

SIMON: Why does it take so long to put a net over Ratko Mladic?

Professor SCHARF: The problem is that the president of Serbia, President Vojislav Kostunica, feels no love for the war crimes tribunal. The Serbians have not been fully cooperating with the tribunal. They give them just enough cooperation to keep the money flowing in, in terms of IMF and World Bank loans.

SIMON: Now why has the European Union set their deadline?

Professor SCHARF: Well, Croatia was recently given tentative approval to enter into the European Union and Serbia wants that very much, and so the Serbs have been in touch for admission into the European Union. The next round of talks begins next week, and the European Union said, as they did with Croatia, if you want to be taken seriously, you're going to have to cooperate fully with the tribunal. The stakes are clear to the Serbian people. They know that for the future of their country, they may have to pay the sacrifice of allowing this person, Ratko Mladic, to face justice at the Hague.

SIMON: What about these reports that he's had a stroke, heart disease, kidney ailments, at one point even held at a Serbian military hospital. Is any of that verifiable? Do you find any of it persuasive?

Professor SCHARF: Well, he is 63 years old, and like a lot of other number one fugitives around the world, his health is ailing. But that doesn't stop someone like Osama Bin Laden, who's suppose to be on dialysis in a cave, from continuing to be on the lam. And apparently for Ratko Mladic, his ailing health has not been an obstacle for the shell game that he's been playing to elude his capture.

SIMON: Any idea where Rado von Karadzic is?

Professor SCHARF: Now that's a good one. Rado von Karadzic is not in Serbia, but rather has been sighted several times in and around Pele(ph), an area of Bosnia. And that is the area where the NATO troops are mostly French troops. There have been at least three operations to try to capture Rado von Karadzic in the last 10 years that have been foiled because of tip-offs by the French troops in the area. This has been all played out in the public in the newspapers.

The United States has been furious about this. But the reason that the French troops seem to be tipping him off is that they have some kind of a quid quo pro with him, that he is sort of a puppetmaster that controls everything in the Bosnian Serb area of Bosnia and that there will be no insurgent attacks against the French troops as long as they allow him to remain at large.

SIMON: So if he keeps things quiet, they'll be quiet about where he is?

Professor SCHARF: And so there's also a lot of pressure now on the French government to bring him in as well. Because we're entering the end game for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The Milosevic case, which is coming to an end, has shown that Milosevic is a very bad person, but the real evil characters in the story turned out to be Rado von Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. And for that tribunal to be seen as a success, those two must be brought to the Hague.

SIMON: Michael Scharf, Director of the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center at Case-Western Reserve University. Thanks very much for being with us.

Professor SCHARF: Thank you, Scott.

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