How a local boy became a suspected war criminal

STANKA remembers Dusko Tadic as a haughty, self-possessed karate enthusiast who eagerly embraced the movement for a pure Serbian state in Bosnia.

``I've known Dusko since he was little. The parents always had problems with [him],'' she recounts.

Stanka lived three doors away from the Tadics, one of a handful of Serbian families who resided in Kozarac, 200 miles northwest of Sarajevo.

``He was arrogant,'' says Stanka, now a refugee in Zagreb.

Still, Mr. Tadic had many friends among Kozarac's Muslims. One even lent him the money to purchase a cafe. ``But when the ethnic tensions began, Dusko ... joined the Serbian Democratic Party [SDP] and began wearing a uniform,'' Stanka says.

As a local leader of the party headed by Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Tadic allegedly committed the atrocities for which he is to be tried by the UN War Crimes Tribunal. The case is part of a much wider investigation by chief prosecutor Richard Goldstone into one of the war's most horrendous episodes of ``ethnic cleansing.''

On May 26, 1992, SDP paramilitary units from nearby Prijedor surrounded and attacked Kozarac with Yugoslav Army-supplied artillery and tanks. The shooting ended two days later and as the survivors surrendered, Bosnian Serb militiamen summarily executed dozens of captives, witnesses recall. They also looted and then methodically blew up or burned almost every building in the town.

Most of the survivors were loaded on buses and taken to makeshift prison camps.

By all accounts, the worst camp was a former ore mine in the village of Omarska. About 3,500 Muslims and some Croats passed through its warehouses before it was shut in August 1992 after being discovered by the press. Survivors say hundreds of Muslims died in daily executions and beatings, most of them businessmen, intellectuals, political leaders, government officials, and police.

It was in Omarska, according to charges brought by the German police, that Tadic committed the worst of the war crimes of which he is accused. He allegedly beat three Muslim men senseless, threw them into a ditch filled with motor oil, and then forced a fourth to bite off their testicles. All three died.

According to news reports, Tadic was spotted in Munich, Germany, in October 1993 by Kozarac refugees, who informed two German activists involved in voluntarily collecting evidence of war crimes in Bosnia.

The two built up enough material to compel the German police to arrest him last February. Germany is now making preparations for Tadic's transfer to The Hague, Netherlands.

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