Lawrence Eagleburger false allegations, December 1992

This article reveals the mindset developing in Washington as the administration of George Bush prepared to hand over to the incoming Clinton Presidency.  Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger was preparing the ground for incoming US Ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, to push through the creation by the UN of an international ‘humanitarian’ war crimes court – a crucial ‘tool’ to help the US achieve its political goals in the Balkans. As was to become the norm, there was no factual basis for Eagleburger’s anti-Serb rhetoric.  It was merely unfounded speculation and gossip. 


The New York Times
December 17, 1992, Thursday, Late Edition – Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 1; Column 6; Foreign Desk
BYLINE: By ELAINE SCIOLINO,  Special to The New York Times

The United States named President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and other Serbian and Croatian political and military figures today as possible war criminals who should be tried someday by a “second Nuremberg” tribunal.

“We know that crimes against humanity have occurred, and we know when and where they occurred,” Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger told delegates at a conference on the fighting in the Balkans. “We know, moreover, which forces committed those crimes, and under whose command they operated. And we know, finally, who the political leaders are and to whom those military commanders were — and still are — responsible.”

Although once known for his close ties to Serbian leaders, in recent months Mr. Eagleburger has become the Bush Administration’s leading spokesman for war-crimes trials, calling for such a tribunal since August. Mr. Eagleburger is a former American Ambassador to Belgrade. This was the first time that the United States has made public a list of those who it argued should be tried for the crimes.

Danger to Peacekeepers

The call for a war-crimes tribunal to resemble the trial of major Nazi figures in Nuremberg after World War II was endorsed by Cyrus R. Vance and Lord Owen, the heads of a joint United Nations-European Community mediation effort. But the two mediators, who appealed for more time to negotiate a settlement to the war that has killed more than 17,000 and forced one million people from their homes, were clearly unenthusiastic about the American and French-backed campaign for a United Nations resolution enforcing a ban on Serbian flights over independent Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The mediators shared the British view that enforcement could endanger the lives of United Nations peacekeeping troops deployed on the ground and jeopardize the humanitarian effort. And they added their voices to the chorus of those who oppose lifting the United Nations arms embargo on all parties in the Balkan fighting.

More Forceful Responses

The Bosnian Government has sought an exemption from the embargo on the ground that it favors the Bosnian Serbs, who have continued to be well supplied by the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav Army. Mr. Eagleburger had said he favored exempting the Bosnian Government.

“It must never be forgotten that peace will only come to the former Yugoslavia through negotiations,” Lord Owen said in a speech to foreign ministers and other representatives at the 29-nation conference. In his speech, Mr. Vance noted that the absence of evidence that the Serbs have used their warplanes and helicopters in combat missions “should be taken into account” in any enforcement resolution.

The Bush Administration, mindful of its legacy after it leaves office next month, has in recent weeks sought to give the impression that it is pushing for more forceful responses to actions by Bosnian Serbian nationalists trying to carve up Bosnia and Herzegovinia. The United States expects the Security Council to approve enforcement of the flight ban, Mr. Eagleburger said, but he acknowledged that he found virtually no support for lifting the United Nations arms embargo.

As for the American move on war-crime trials, it was unclear whether it was an exercise in oratory or whether the United States genuinely would seek to bring any of the alleged culprits to trial. Most of those named by Mr. Eagleburger were Serbian or Bosnian Serbian leaders.

“In waiting for the people of Serbia, if not their leaders, to come to their senses,” he said, “we must make them understand that their country will remain alone, friendless and condemned to economic ruin and exclusion from the family of civilized nations for as long as they pursue the suicidal dream of a Greater Serbia. They need, especially, to understand that a second Nuremberg awaits the practitioners of ethnic cleansing, and that the judgment and opprobrium of history awaits the people in whose name their crimes were committed.”

Mr. Eagleburger named some Croats as probably guilty of crimes, and also noted that in September, Bosnian Muslims in Kamenica had killed some 60 Serbian civilians and soldiers. Among those he named were Borislav Herak, a Bosnian Serb who has confessed to killing more than 230 civilians; two members of a Croatian paramilitary force known as “Adil” and “Arif” accused of attacking a bus convoy of 100 Serbian women and children in August, killing half of them, and Zeljko Raznjatovic, leader of the Tigers, a Serbian paramilitary force accused of the mass murder of up to 3,000 civilians near the Bosnian town of Brcko.

Milosevic Is on the List

He also accused Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Chetniks, a Serbian paramilitary group accused of atrocities in Brcko and other Bosnian towns; Drago Prcac, commander of the Serb-run Omarska detention camp, where mass murders and torture allegedly occurred, and Adem Delic, commander of the Croat-run Celebici camp, where at least 15 Serbs were said to have been beaten to death in August.

“I want to make it clear that, in naming names, I am presenting the views of my Government alone,” Mr. Eagleburger said. “The information I have cited has been provided to the U.N. War Crimes Commission, whose decision it will be to prosecute or not. Second, I am not prejudging any trial proceedings that may occur. They must be impartial and conducted in accordance with due process.”

Mr. Eagleburger listed Mr. Milosevic among those leaders who have special responsibility.

“There is another category of fact which is beyond dispute,” he said, “namely the fact of political and command responsibility for the crimes against humanity which I have described. Leaders such as Slobodan Milosevic, the President of Serbia, Radovan Karadzic, the president of the self-declared Serbian Bosnian republic, and Gen. Ratko Mladic, commander of Bosnian Serb military forces, must eventually explain whether and how they sought to insure, as they must under international law, that their forces complied with international law.”

4 War-Crimes Reports

He said that the United States had concluded that Serbian authorities had flouted previous international agreements. That, he said, had not only produced “an intolerable and deteriorating situation inside the former Yugoslavia, it is also beginning to threaten the framework of stability in the new Europe.”

Mr. Karadzic, who was one of those named by Mr. Eagleburger, was seen by reporters wandering through the corridors outside the main conference hall.

Mr. Eagleburger later told reporters that although there was no plan to bring the accused to trial at the moment, “Over the long run they may be able to run but they can’t hide, that we’re going to pursue them.” But when pressed, he made clear that he was not calling for the forcible seizure of the 10 men he named for either committing or supervising war crimes.

President Bush raised expectations that President Saddam Hussein of Iraq would be tried as a war criminal after the Iraqi leader’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, but the matter was quietly dropped after the American-led coalition won the Persian Gulf war without capturing Mr. Hussein. The Pentagon has never released a long report prepared by its lawyers that documents Mr. Hussein’s war crimes for a possible trial in the future.

The United States has already submitted four war-crimes reports to the United Nations that detail specific episodes of Serbian brutality, and Mr. Eagleburger described nine incidents of Serbian “crimes against humanity,” including murders of men, women and children, mass executions, torture and the forced expulsion of civilians from their villages.

Other governments and human-rights organizations have documented other atrocities, including systematic brutality against women and children, including gang rape, the incarceration of women and girls impregnated by rape, the forcing of women into brothels and murder of rape victims and of children in front of their parents. Some soldiers who have refused to carry out orders to rape or murder their victims have themselves been shot or beaten to death.

There is universal agreement in the talks on Yugoslavia this week, which began in Stockholm and Geneva and will continue at the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, that the Serbs have broken promises made at a similar international forum in London in August to lift the siege of Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities, dismantle detention camps and turn over heavy weapons to United Nations forces.

While delegates struggled to give the impression that they were doing something to respond to Serbian atrocities and aggression, at the same time there was also a universal disinclination to make decisions that could draw their own military forces into what is viewed as an intractable religious and ethnic war with no clear outcome.

Mr. Vance even sought to portray United Nations efforts to staunch the fighting as somewhat successful, saying in his speech, “The overall level of violence has been reduced, although not ended.”

Asked about the remarks of a man who held his job during the Carter Administration, Mr. Eagleburger praised the United Nations effort but disagreed with Mr. Vance’s basic premise, saying “The Bosnia Serbs have taken more territory, ethnic cleansing has proceeded, there are a lot of refugees who have been cleaned out of areas. There is by no means any end in view as I see it to the conflict itself.”

In a statement yesterday, Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger named Serbs and Croats accused of war crimes in the Balkan fighting, and provided details about some of his allegations.


Borislav Herak, a Bosnian Serb who has confessed to killing more than 230 civilians.

“Adil” and “Arif,” two members of a Croatian paramilitary force. They are accused of attacking a bus convoy carrying more than 100 Serbian women and children in August, killing half of them.

Zeljko Raznjatovic, leader of the Tigers, a Serbian paramilitary force accused of ethnic cleansing and the deaths of up to 3,000 civilians near the northeastern Bosnian town of Brcko.

Vojislav Seselij, leader of the Chetniks, a Serbian paramilitary group accused of atrocities in Brcko and other Bosnian towns.

Drago Prcac, commander of the Serbian-run Omarska detention camp, where killings and torture have been reported.

Adem Delic, commander of the Croatian-run Celebici camp where at least 15 Serbs were beaten to death in August.

Mr. Eagleburger said three political leaders could be held responsible for failing to prevent atrocities:

Slobodan Milosevic, president of the Serbian Republic.

Radovan Karadzic, leader of the self-proclaimed Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Gen. Ratko Mladic, commander of the Bosnian Serbs’ military forces.


The Aug. 21 massacre of more than 200 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb police in the Vlasica mountains in central Bosnia.

The May-June murders of 2,000 to 3,000 Muslim men, women and children by Serbian irregulars at a brick factory and pig farm near Brcko.

The May 18 mass killing of about 56 Muslims by Serb militiamen in Grbavci, central Bosnia.

The terrorizing of 30,000 Muslims in Banja Luka, including bombings, beatings and killings.

Destruction of Vukovar, a Croatian town, in the fall of 1991, and the forced expulsion of its population.