What the US Knows and Won't Reveal

By

Last week, the Clinton administration made a long-awaited admission: it had not turned over to the International War Crimes Tribunal all evidence it has of recent mass executions of Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces.

Many Bosnia watchers say the evidence may be necessary for prosecuting top Bosnian Serb leaders.

For the last two months, the US has had dramatic spy photos of six possible mass graves around Srebrenica - the smoking guns of the largest single mass execution in Europe since World War II - but failed to give all of its evidence to the Tribunal.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Critics warn that the administration's handling of the photos shows it may be willing to achieve peace at the price of justice in Bosnia, and is not fully supporting the Hague-based Tribunal.

''I bet that we don't have alot of it,'' says a Tribunal investigator.

State Department officials blame the delay on resistance from the CIA. Intelligence officials say they are cooperating as much as they can. Critics also question why the US has not released all the photos to the public.

Officials in the administration warn that releasing the photos could prompt the Bosnian Serbs to tamper with the graves. But intelligence officials say they already have evidence that the Bosnian Serbs are exhuming one of the graves.

Promise to cooperate

Administration officials, responding to complaints from the Tribunal, initially denied that they were withholding information from the Tribunal, and are now promising to fully cooperate.

Critics point out that the administration made a dramatic presentation of the Nova Kasaba photos to the United Nations Security Council in August. But during September and October - the two months when US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke was trying to launch a new peace initiative in the region - almost no senior American officials mentioned Srebrenica.

UN officials have long said that the timing of the release of the Nova Kasaba photos was designed to divert attention from an embarrassing Croatian Army offensive launched on Aug. 4.

The Croatian offensive, led by officers trained in part by a retired American general, resulted in the ethnic cleansing of 180,000 rebel Serbs from Croatia, the murder of more than 100 elderly Serbs months after fighting ceased, and the burning of 60 percent of Serb homes in the former rebel Serb stronghold of the Krajina.

Tribunal most-wanted list

The Tribunal is urging that the arrest of all indicted war criminals in the former Yugoslavia - including Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic and Bosnian Serb ''President'' Radovan Karadzic - be included in any peace deal worked out in Dayton, Ohio.

US officials are calling for the ouster of Mladic and Karadzic from power. But human rights groups fear the US may agree to a compromise with the Serbs that would tacitly leave them in Serbia and shield them from prosecution.

Human rights groups are also urging the US to block the lifting of punishing UN economic sanctions against Serbia until Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic gives investigators access to mass graves in Serb-held parts of eastern Bosnia and turns over indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals.

Mr. Milosevic, who is negotiating for the Bosnian Serbs and is the most powerful Serb politician, is offering to remove General Mladic and Mr. Karadzic from power, but not to turn them over to the Tribunal, whose authority he refuses to recognize.

Observers predict that unless war criminals from all sides in the conflict, including the Muslim-led Bosnian government, are brought to justice now, a desire for revenge will fuel future fighting in Bosnia.

The desire of the Clinton administration and the international community for a peace settlement in Bosnia, observers warn, could lead to war criminals escaping prosecution.

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...