Updated: 13-Jun-2002 NATO Press Releases


13 June 2002

by the Secretary General of NATO
on SFOR's Detention of Indicted War Criminal Darko Mrda
13 June 2002

Today, 13 June 2002, SFOR detained Darko Mrda, who was under indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia for war crimes. Mr. Mrda was detained in Prijedor in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina and is being transferred to The Hague. There were no casualties sustained in this operation by SFOR, Mr. Mrda or anyone in the surrounding area.

I am deeply grateful to the SFOR soldiers and their commanders for their courage, professionalism and dedication in carrying out this action. Today's action is another step in NATO's drive to detain the remaining war crime indictees. Each fugitive sent to The Hague makes it easier to build a lasting peace in the Balkans.

Darko Mrda is under indictment for war crimes, specifically the massacre of over 200 men in a convoy along the road from Trnopolje and Tukovi and heading for Travnik on 21 August 1992. Darko Mrda was a member of a special police unit, known as an "Intervention Squad," in Prijedor. He allegedly led a group of these policemen in a particularly heinous act in which they separated a group of military-aged non-Serb men from their families as they were purportedly travelling to Travnik to be "exchanged." He ordered these men onto two buses which drove to a location called Koricanske Stinjene, where there is a sheer rock face on one side of the road and a steep cliff on the other. Prisoners were ordered to leave the bus with their heads down and to kneel at the edge of the cliff. Mrda allegedly then said, "Here is where we do the exchange, the living for the living, and the dead…"

The police began firing their guns at the men. Several jumped or were pushed over the cliff before they were shot and some of those survived. Witnesses estimate that over 200 men were killed by the shots or the fall, and the indictment includes a list of 228 names, including 12 who are known to have survived the shooting and the fall. As a result of these actions, Mrda is accused of violations of the laws or customs of war (murder) and crimes against humanity (extermination and inhumane acts).

Today's detention should serve as a warning. There is no place to hide for anyone accused by the Tribunal of these horrific crimes. In the past year, 22 persons indicted for war crimes have been brought to justice in The Hague. Some turned themselves in voluntarily at the time and place of their choosing. Others were forcibly apprehended.

I call on all remaining fugitives, in particular Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, to surrender themselves with dignity to the Tribunal. Let me be crystal clear to those with guilty consciences. You have only two choices: turn yourself in with dignity or justice will be brought to you. The net is closing.

This detention of Mrda was undertaken in accordance with SFOR's mandate that authorises detention operations for such persons. It was within the mandate given to SFOR by the North Atlantic Council under authority contained in the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions. SACEUR, as overall commander for SFOR, has kept me fully informed of this action. SFOR will continue to do its part by carrying out its mandate in a firm and even-handed manner.

The parties to the Dayton Peace Agreement remain responsible for cooperating in the investigation and prosecution of war crimes and other violations of international and humanitarian law. Accordingly, I call on all authorities in the region, including Belgrade, to fully cooperate with the Tribunal in order to promote a stable and lasting peace.

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