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NATO Forces Nab Suspected Criminal

September 27, 1998

EAGLE BASE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ NATO troops on Sunday arrested a former Bosnian Serb police chief indicted by the international war crimes court for murder, rape and other crimes during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Stevan Todorovic was apprehended without incident in the northern Bosnian town of Bosanski Samac, about 44 miles northwest of here, a NATO statement said.

President Clinton confirmed that American and other, unspecified Allied troops took part in the arrest. Clinton, who was in California on a fund-raising trip, said Todorovic was responsible ``for some of the most heinous crimes that took place during the conflict in Bosnia.″

Clinton said the action ``shows our continued determination to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes in Bosnia. This message should not be lost on those indicted war criminals still at large.″

But Todorovic’s lawyer, Igor Pantelic, said his client told him by telephone from the U.N. detention center in The Netherlands that he had been kidnapped from a summer house in the Serbian mountain resort Zlatibor by masked men who blindfolded him and took him across a border river to Bosnia.

The lawyer said Todorovic told him he was taken across the Drina River in a rubber boat, put in a helicopter and flown to Tuzla.

In a statement to Belgrade-based independent BK Television, Pantelic said the arrest ``creates a dangerous precedent″ and is a ``violation of sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,″ of which Serbia is a part.

Todorovic, 41, has been indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for ``grave breaches, violations of the laws or customs of war and crime against humanity″ allegedly committed in 1992 when he was police chief of Bosanski Samac.

Tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier said Todorovic was indicted in July 1995 on 15 counts: five war crimes; five ``grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions″; and five crimes against humanity.

Among his alleged offenses, he is charged with murdering one Muslim, beating at least six others and forcing two prisoners whose identities were not released to perform unspecified sexual acts on each other in front of other prisoners and Serb guards _ an allegation which carries a rape charge.

Todorovic is the ninth indicted suspect to be picked up in Bosnia by NATO forces and the 26th suspect in custody out of 58 suspects indicted.

The operation took place a few hours before U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen arrived in Bosnia for a one-day visit.

It also came days after Bosnian Serb ultranationalist Nikola Poplasen defeated the U.S.-backed incumbent for president of the Bosnian Serb republic in this month’s national election.

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