Serbia's Labor Minister Resigns On Failure To Nab War Criminal


Serbian Labor Minister Rasim Ljajic resigned as the head of an action team entrusted with the task of hunting down Ratko Mladic, a war criminal responsible for genocide of around 8000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. Ljajic handed over his resignation to Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic following his failure to nab Mladic.

Ljajic's resignation is in line with his stand made earlier this year that he would resign if Mladic was not arrested and handed over to the International Court by the end of 2009. Although Ljajic resigned as head of the action team, he will continue to head the National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, a separate body.

The action team was formed in 2006 with the aim of locating and arresting war fugitives indicted in the Bosnian conflict. The team along with the Hague based International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia were involved in the search for Ratko Mladic.

Mladic was a Lieutenant Colonel General in the Army of the Republika Srpska or Bosnian Serb army during the Bosnia-Hercegovina war. In July 1995, ordered the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims. He was later indicted by the International Court and accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and various other war crimes.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was Mladic's chief during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 and is currently facing trial at the at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The arrest of Mladic is essential to Serbia's European Union membership chances. Serbia is the last of the five former states that made up the former Yugoslavia, to apply for the EU membership. As of now, Serbia has to find and handover Mladic and Goran Hadzic to Hague Tribunal to hasten its EU membership. Both have been indicted by the UN tribunal for murdering and exiling many Croatians and non-Serb civilians during the Croatian/Bosnian war during 1991-1995.

During the third week of December, Serbia officially filed its application to join the 27-member European Union in an effort to end a decade of international isolation caused by the 1990s civil war that Balkanized former Yugoslavia.

Serbia's EU ambitions, however, have been boosted by a couple of recent developments, including the unblocking of a trade deal and lifting of visa requirements by EU foreign ministers. It was the Netherlands that insisted on blocking the trade deal, demanding Serbia bring in key Balkans war crime suspects and extradite them to the International Criminal Court before EU approved the deal.

Netherlands dropped its objections following a recent report by UN's chief war crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz, which indicated that Serbia was cooperating with the UN tribunal in pursuing suspected war criminals.

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