Bosnian Serb authorities have expelled a famed French Nazi hunter from their self-proclaimed capital of Pale after he traveled there in an effort to persuade their leaders to surrender to an international war crimes tribunal.
“They obviously got my message, which was too strong for them,” said French lawyer Serge Klarsfeld, who had gone to Pale to convince Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and army commander Gen. Ratko Mladic to surrender to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
Klarsfeld, 60, was interrogated for three hours by Bosnian Serb police before being forced to return to areas held by the Bosnian Muslim and Croat confederation, his son Arno said in an interview.
“Three police and an interpreter went to his hotel in the evening and took him to the police station,” Arno Klarsfeld said.
He said his father was “forced to accept a ride” back to Sarajevo on Saturday morning by two men who he believed were security agents.
The war crimes tribunal in The Hague has indicted both Karadzic and Mladic on charges of crimes against humanity for ordering the ethnic-cleansing campaigns of mass killings, torture and expulsions of Muslims during the nearly four-year Bosnian war.
Serge Klarsfeld brought a letter for the two Bosnian Serb leaders that he gave last Friday to the Pale press center run by Karadzic’s daughter, Sonja.
“If they consider themselves innocent,” he said in the letter, then facing the war crimes tribunal “will be the best way to publicly publish this innocence.
“If they consider themselves guilty – which appears obvious to us because war crimes and genocide were committed by Bosnian Serb armed forces under their political and military authority – Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic must take into consideration that the international community will not allow them to remain unpunished.”
A reply from Bosnian Serb officials said Karadzic was not in Pale and not interested in what Klarsfeld had to say and told him to leave the next morning.
Klarsfeld, who brought Klaus Barbie, the former Gestapo chief of Lyon, France, to justice in 1987, flew from Paris to Sarajevo on Feb. 22, then drove to the border with Serb-held territories.
By walking, hitchhiking and a taking a taxi, he arrived in Pale last Friday.
He and his wife Beate have been arrested several times during their Nazi- hunting missions.
Arno Klarsfeld, one of the lawyers who in 1994 won the conviction of former Lyon militia chief Paul Touvier for committing crimes against humanity during World War II, said his father might go to Croatia to try to convince accused Croatian war criminals to stand trial.
“There are Bosnian and Croatian war criminals as well. It’s the same mission,” Arno Klarsfeld said.
The Hague tribunal has named 52 people suspected of war crimes in Bosnia. The overwhelming majority of them are Bosnian Serbs.
NATO peacekeeping troops have been ordered to arrest Karadzic and Mladic on sight, but they are not authorized to track them down.