Serb war crimes suspect shoots himself

Ex-police chief protests new extradition measure

April 12, 2002

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia - A former Serbian police chief indicted for war crimes shot himself in the head outside Yugoslavia's parliament yesterday, hours after the legislature adopted a law that allows arrest and extradition to the United Nations tribunal.

Vlajko Stojiljkovic, who headed the police under then-President Slobodan Milosevic and was indicted for crimes against humanity, shot himself in front of the federal parliament building downtown.

Mihajlo Mitrovic, head of the emergency room at the Belgrade hospital where Stojiljkovic was taken, said he was in critical condition with a severe gunshot wound to the head.

Hours earlier, parliament passed a law that removes legal obstacles for the arrest and extradition of war crimes suspects, including top Milosevic associates, to the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where the former Yugoslav president is on trial for his role in atrocities committed by his troops in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said passage of the law should satisfy the tribunal's demands for extradition of indicted suspects and open the way for the renewal of U.S. financial aid, which is on hold until Secretary of State Colin L. Powell certifies that Yugoslavia is cooperating with the court.

The State Department said yesterday that Powell had not made a decision on that issue. A spokesman for the U.N. court criticized the narrow scope of the law, which applies only to suspects who have been indicted; he emphasized that Yugoslavia's cooperation should be "complete and unconditional."

"We are more interested in concrete actions, and that means the apprehension and transfer of individuals who have been at large for unacceptable periods of time," spokesman Jim Landale said in The Hague. "We will wait and see."

The bill - which applies to about 20 suspects hiding in Yugoslavia, including Stojiljkovic - was approved by an 80-39 vote in the 138-seat lower parliament chamber, with the other deputies absent. The 40-seat upper house approved the law Wednesday, and it will take effect upon publication in the official gazette, expected within days.

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