NATO soldiers arrested a former Bosnian Serb Cabinet minister Tuesday on charges that he planned the forced removal of non-Serbs from northwest Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992.
Radislav Brdjanin is the most senior Bosnian Serb civilian official yet to be arrested and transferred to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
In an indictment that was kept secret until his arrest, Brdjanin was charged with persecution, a crime against humanity, for planning ethnic purges of Muslims and Croats from the Prijedor and Sanski Most regions of Bosnia. Brdjanin, now a lawmaker in the Bosnian Serb assembly, faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.
The tribunal's chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour of Canada, thanked British troops in the NATO-led Stabilization Force, or SFOR, for making the arrest in the northern city of Banja Luka. But she also stressed that local authorities hold primary responsibility for detaining suspects.
Brdjanin served in the wartime Bosnian Serb government of Radovan Karadzic as head of the Ministry of Urbanization, which has been blamed for ordering the destruction of mosques in mainly Muslim areas purged by Serbs during the 1992-95 war. Brdjanin also was briefly prime minister in the early part of the war.
Karadzic, who no longer holds power, twice has been indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal on genocide charges but remains at large.