. N. convicts Bosnian Serb of war crimes

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The U.N. war crimes tribunal hailed its first conviction Wednesday as a step toward bringing even greater culprits in Bosnia’s genocide to justice.
But for many, the conclusion of prison camp torturer Dusan Tadic’s trial — the first by an international war crimes tribunal since World War II — only underscored the trouble the international community has had in prosecuting the masterminds of Bosnia’s war.
While convicted of brutalizing prison camp inmates, Tadic was acquitted of several of the most serious counts against him, including murder. And he is a small fish. Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic are still free and prospering in postwar Bosnia — even though the tribunal had indicted them.
Human rights groups, Bosnian Muslims and foreign leaders greeted the 4-year-old tribunal’s first conviction with demands that Karadzic and Mladic be brought to justice.
If the United States and others in the West fail to do that, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch warned, “this first effort at an international system of justice since Nuremberg and Tokyo will fail.”
“Tadic was a hand of the genocide, but the brains — Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic — are still at large,” said Mirza Hajric, a spokesman for the Muslim president of Bosnia. “As long as they are free, chances are small for the Dayton peace accord to be implemented.”
The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal at The Hague convicted Tadic, a reserve traffic officer and onetime cafe owner, of brutalizing Muslims at three Serb-run prison camps in 1992.
But it acquitted Tadic of 20 of 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, acknowledging that the evidence was too weak to make murder charges stick.
Prosecutors are expected to appeal the acquittals, claiming the judges imposed too strict a burden of proof. In the absence of physical evidence, prosecutors had to rely almost exclusively on sometimes sketchy witness testimony.
Tadic has maintained his innocence, saying he was a victim of mistaken identity. He claimed he was a scapegoat in tribunal prosecutors’ eagerness to find those responsible for the war’s atrocities.
He faces a maximum life sentence, but his lawyer said he, too, would appeal, delaying a sentencing hearing.
Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour called the verdicts “a very important stepping stone towards encouraging the international community … to take appropriate measures to ensure that those more culpable or equally culpable are brought to justice.”
Bosnian Serb authorities have refused to surrender Karadzic, Mladic or any other indicted suspects.
Karadzic and Mladic are accused as the key players in a systematic campaign to eliminate Bosnian Muslims in territory claimed by the Bosnian Serbs. Prosecutors claim the two men are directly responsible for tens of thousands of civilian deaths.
In postwar Bosnia, Karadzic is allegedly making millions of dollars off trade in cigarettes and gasoline.
The U.N. court has no authority to arrest indicted suspects — only eight of the 74 are in custody — and the NATO-led force enforcing the Dayton peace accord says it will arrest war crimes suspects only if its troops happen upon them — something that apparently has yet to happen.
Human Rights Watch urged President Clinton and other world leaders to “summon the political courage to ensure that NATO troops arrest and surrender indictees.”
And Britain, a partner in the NATO task force, urged Bosnia’s ethnic factions to take responsibility for surrendering indicted suspects.
In the most important verdicts Wednesday, judges convicted Tadic of “persecution,” a broad count that included the throat-slashings of two Muslim policemen. The court did not directly blame Tadic for the killings, which occurred at a time when Serb forces were driving Muslims and Croats from their homes.
He was also found guilty of beating prisoners in the notorious Serb-run Omarska camp in northwest Bosnia, but acquitted of a charge alleging he forced a Muslim prisoner to bite the testicle off another camp inmate.