The Yugoslav army’s wartime leader surrendered to the U.N. war crimes tribunal Monday to face allegations stemming from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, including killings and other attacks on civilians.
Gen. Momcilo Perisic was indicted last week for his alleged role in atrocities committed by his troops in Croatia and Bosnia over a five-year period. Tribunal spokesman Jim Landale confirmed Perisic’s arrival in the Netherlands.
The general, a onetime ally of ex-president Slobodan Milosevic, is the fourth Serb commander since January to announce his readiness to be tried by the U.N. tribunal. Perisic was the last citizen of Serbia-Montenegro to be indicted by the court and will join more than 50 suspects in proceedings in The Hague, including Milosevic.
About a dozen remain at large
About a dozen Bosnian Serb suspects remain at large, including former leader Radovan Karadzic and commander Gen. Ratko Mladic — the court’s most wanted fugitives.
Perisic’s indictment, made public Monday, detailed crimes committed between August 1993 and November 1998, including murders and attacks on civilians in Zagreb, Sarajevo and Srebrenica, where at least 7,000 Bosnian Muslims were executed in 1995.
The indictment said that as Mladic’s superior, Perisic knew of plans to attack the U.N.-protected enclave, but did nothing to stop them.
“Momcilo Perisic also knew that some members of the Bosnian Serb Army would engage in criminal conduct against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica after its capture; criminal conduct which would include persecution, forcible transfer and killings,” the document said.
Perisic faces 13 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war, punishable by up to life imprisonment. A hearing was expected this week.
As the highest-ranking military official below the president, Perisic will also be prosecuted for crimes committed by subordinates, such as Serbian soldiers’ killing civilians in Sarajevo and firing cluster bombs on Zagreb, Croatia.
Saw combat in Croatia, Bosnia
Perisic was involved in combat in the former Yugoslav republics of Croatia and Bosnia when those republics seceded from the now-defunct federation in 1991, triggering rebellions by local ethnic Serbs. The Serb-dominated Yugoslav federal forces backed the insurgencies, which left thousands dead and entire areas ravaged.
Perisic, 60, rose from the ranks of the communist Yugoslavia’s military to the post of army chief of staff at the height of Milosevic’s wars in the 1990s.
Perisic turned against Milosevic in 1998, opposing his plans to send the army to crush a rebellion by separatist ethnic Albanians in the southern Kosovo province.
Milosevic replaced Perisic as chief of staff in 1998. After leaving the army, Perisic set up a political party and joined a growing pro-democracy movement.
Fighting in Kosovo ended in 1999 with NATO’s bombing of Milosevic’s troops and Serbia’s loss of control over the province.
In late 2000, when Milosevic was toppled, Perisic held the post of deputy prime minister in the Serbian government.