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Austria police arrest former Bosnian general on war crimes charges

Austrian authorities announced Friday they have arrested former Bosnian general Jovan Divjak under a 2008 international warrant issued by Serbian officials that accuses Divjak of war crimes. Divjak was arrested Thursday night at Vienna International Airport while traveling from Sarajevo to Italy, and he appeared Friday morning before a local judge who placed him in extradition custody [Tanjug report, in Serbian]. Under Austrian law, Divjak will remain in custody for 14 days [ORF report, in German] while the court reviews evidence and determines whether to allow extradition. Serbian officials believe that Divjak was involved in a May 1992 attack that killed up to 40 retreating soldiers [RFE/FL report] during the 1992-1995 Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive]. In a unique situation, Divjak, who is ethnically Serbian, left the Yugoslav army during the war and enlisted with the Bosnian forces. He has since gained popularity [AP report] in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for his belief in a "multiethnic Bosnia" and his charity work for children. Some commentators predict that Serbia will have difficulty extraditing Divjak from Austria, drawing parallels to the country's failed extradition [JURIST report] last year of former Bosnian president Ejup Ganic [Trial Watch profile] from the UK to stand trial for alleged war crimes in Serbia.

Divjak's arrest is part of Serbian officials' ongoing effort to apprehend those responsible for the atrocities that occurred in the region during the 1992-95 civil war. Last month, French authorities arrested [JURIST report] Milorad Momic, a suspected former member of the Serbian paramilitary group, the Scorpions [JURIST news archive], which took part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [JURIST news archive] in Bosnia, where a total of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed. Since his arrest, both Croatian and Serbian officials have requested his extradition [JURIST report] to face trial for war crimes charges filed against him in each country. Suspected BiH war criminal Dragan Crnogorac was arrested [JURIST report] in November in connection with the Srebrenica massacre. In August, the Court of BiH [official website] issued genocide charges [JURIST report] against four former Bosnian Serb soldiers, accusing them of participating in the murder of more than 800 Bosnian Muslims during the massacre.

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