March 10, 1996

A 'Wanted' poster that leaves any pursuers wanting
By Indira A. R. Lakshmanan, Globe Staff

Adolph Hitler: possible mustache.
Genghis Khan: last address unknown.
Idi Amin: heavy-set black male.

The descriptions aren't much, but if these legendary baddies were modern-day Serb or Croat war criminals, that's about what they'd get. One need look no further than the absurd "wanted" poster NATO slapped together and distributed in very limited quantities to its troops to realize that the enforcers of peace in Bosnia have little interest in actually arresting those accused of crimes against humanity.

Under the Dayton peace accord, soldiers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization must arrest indicted war criminals if they come in contact with them, but are not to seek them out. The reluctance to actively hunt them down is understandable given the painful memory of the 18 Americans killed three years ago during the failed campaign to rout out Somali warlord Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid.

But the pendulum seems to have swung resolutely in the other direction. NATO's motto in Bosnia might as well be: "See no evil, hear no evil, seek no evil."

Take, for example, the poster's ludicrous description of Nedeljko Banovic, who "looks like his brother."

And then there is the description of the brother, who also made the list. He's Predrag Banovic who, according to the helpful identifier, "wore gold."

NATO says it would blur its mission and give the appearance of taking sides if its forces were to actually arrest war criminals. But their mission is to enforce peace, and one wonders if peace is really possible if those responsible for fomenting genocide are allowed to roam free.

So far, only two of more than 50 men indicted for crimes against humanity have been captured - one in 1994, when he was spotted by Bosnian refugees in Germany; the other in January, by Bosnian Muslim soldiers. Not one has been picked up by NATO troops.

While it is true that CIA satellite photos can detect bones hidden underground in mass graves by Bosnian Serbs, our advanced intelligence apparatus would seem incapable of supplying complete descriptions, photographs - and in some cases, names - of men indicted by thousands of pages of evidence and witness testimony.

Zdravko Govedarica can be recognized by his "possible moustache"; Nikica Janjic for being "clean shaven."

Zoran Zigic's address is given as "former taxi driver in Prijedor"; Milojica Kos' abode is listed as "owned restaurant in Omarska, " the site of a horrific concentration camp.

Notorious Bosnian Serb military leader, Gen. Ratko Mladic, indicted for the deaths of thousands of Muslims, is described as "red-faced" and living in Belgrade. That must explain why US soldiers who surround his headquarters in a Bosnian town have managed to miss his presence entirely.

Perhaps most absurd of all is the description of one war criminal named Gruban. "Date of birth: unknown. Nationality: unknown. Description: unknown. Address: unknown." No last name. Just Gruban.

"Are we supposed to walk around yelling, ' Gruban! ' and if someone turns around, arrest him?," carped an officer at the US base in Tuzla.

And it is obvious NATO has decided to turn a very clear-seeing eye in the other direction when the most infamous war criminal of all, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic reportedly passed through numerous NATO checkpoints in recent weeks, including seven in one day.

Karadzic did business in Banja Luka in a room next to one in which NATO officials were meeting. He lives and walks freely in Pale, where NATO top brass meet twice a week.

Could it be that soldiers don't recognize him? Thousands of clear photographs of Karadzic abound, yet he is shown on the poster in a fuzzy shot taken off videotape. His description underneath: "flamboyant."

One wonders if he hasn't been arrested because he hasn't been seen wearing a loud plaid suit and driving a white stretch limo.

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