The Serbian Orthodox Church is charging the peacekeeping force in Bosnia with violently desecrating church property in its search for suspects wanted by the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

In an April 11 letter addressed to U.S. President Bush, Gen. John B. Sylvester, commander of the SFOR peacekeeping force in Bosnia, and Bosnian High Commissioner Wolfgang Petritsch, the Serbian Church protested the behavior of U.S.-led troops.

Written by Serb Patriarch Pavle in the name of the Holy Synod of Bishops, the letter refers to “enormously unpleasant situations which the faithful of the Serbian Orthodox Church experienced on Feb. 28 and March 1, 2002, when the soldiers of the SFOR peacekeeping forces violently burst into these villages claiming to search for [former Bosnian political and military leader] Radovan Karadzic. They used explosive and other objects to smash doors and barge into houses, ambulances and even schools.”

Even though U.S. officials have expressed opposition to the newly ratified International Criminal Court, there is an urgency to round up people in Bosnia wanted for alleged war crimes to stand trial in another international court, the Hague Tribunal. U.S. War Crimes Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper, on April 18, traveled to Bosnia to inform the Serb leadership that “there would be no economic or political progress in Republika Srpska (the Serb part of Bosnia)” until Karadzic and Ratko Mladic stood trial at The Hague. He went on to say that “Republika Srpska risked falling behind other countries for not cooperating with the Hague Tribunal” and that its “citizens would continue suffering while Radovan Karadzic was free.”

In addition, the U.S. administration has continued applying economic and political pressure against neighboring Yugoslavia, compelling it to pass an unconstitutional law that sets the rules for “cooperation with The Hague” and to issue arrest warrants against alleged Hague suspects.

The intensified search for suspects in Bosnia has caused Karadzic to resurface from his seven-year exile to protest the methods used in the hunt.

The letter goes on to say that the Serbian Orthodox Church is “shocked and appalled by the behavior of the SFOR soldiers to innocent civilians, especially by their violent entering the Church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God at Celebici, with weapons, where they scattered sacral objects in the altar and smashed the glass within the chalice [used] for giving the Holy Communion to priests and people. … The Church in which our faithful pray to God, receive the Holy Communion, are christened and married has been desecrated. Religious feelings of our faithful, their human dignity and safety have been violated.” The letter concludes with an appeal that “measures be taken so that nothing similar should ever happen again.”

This is not the first time that the Serbian Church has appealed to Western leaders to stop the threat to its churches. Since the NATO-led KFOR troops came to the Serbian province of Kosovo after the bombing of Yugoslavia in June 1999, more than 100 Orthodox churches have been damaged or destroyed by Albanian Islamicists in the presence of the 50,000-plus-strong Western military forces.

In the April 24 edition of the Belgrade weekly Nedeljni Telegraf, ran a letter written by Karadzic to Kosta Cavoski, a close friend and leading Yugoslav legal authority and Hague opponent, in which he says that he has been “earnestly trying to avoid an encounter with the SFOR troops for the past seven years … and that it would be better if Gen. Sylvester did the same, [for] in that encounter I may not pass very well and would probably pass very badly in the technical sense, but I would certainly be the winner in the moral sense.”

Sylvester, continues Karadzic, “could come out the winner only if we don’t meet, that is, if he refuses the role of policeman and bounty hunter.”

Karadzic also expresses his wonder as to “why Gen. Sylvester wants to equate his soldiers with cruel bounty hunters” and whether his soldiers’ parents know that “their children break into houses of our innocent civilians in the middle of the night and frighten our children, who fall unconscious” from shock.

Referring to the “tribunal” that is hunting him, Karadzic goes on to ask “what kind of court and prosecution is it that first arrests and only then compiles evidence … which has held our speaker of the House, who has had no role in the executive branch, in detention without trial for two years,” further wondering whether “such things are allowed in Gen. Sylvester’s country.”

Finally, Karadzic wonders whether “President Bush, Gen. Sylvester’s supreme commander, knows that his general writes letters of blackmail in which he threatens innocent civilians.”

The last is in reference to an April 8 letter written by Sylvester to another Bosnian Serb, Zvonko Bajagic, in which he urges him to “appeal to your friend Radovan Karadzic to give himself up” to the Hague Tribunal or be faced with the possibility of “legal complications resulting in a thorough and expensive investigation that might cause you financial and emotional hardship and suffering.”

Karadzic is being sought by the Tribunal for allegedly taking part in the organization of a “massacre” of Bosnian Muslims in the “U.N. demilitarized zone” in Srebrenica in July 1995. This is also one of the main charges facing former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, who is currently standing trial in The Hague.

Last week, the publication of the results of a five-year long official Dutch inquiry into the events taking place in Srebrenica caused the resignation of the entire Dutch government. In a section dealing with the work of various foreign intelligence agencies during the Bosnian conflict, the report implicates the Pentagon with, among other things, supporting the airlift of Iranian and Turkish armaments financed with Saudi Arabian money into the “demilitarized” Muslim enclave of Srebrenica just before its fall to Bosnian Serb forces.

As quoted by the London Guardian, the report also states that the CIA was opposed to the Pentagon policy of allying with “radical Islamist groups from the Middle East, some of the same groups that the Pentagon is now fighting in ‘the war against terrorism,’ [including] Afghan mujahedin and Hezbollah.”

Back in June 1998, in an interview given to the Bosnian weekly “Dani,” the former police chief of Srebrenica went so far as to implicate former President Clinton in offering to stage the fall of Srebrenica in order to ensure a NATO intervention. Apparently, former Muslim Islamic leader Alija Izetbegovic, told him at a 1993 meeting that “[y]ou know, I was offered by Clinton in April 1993 … that the Chetnik [Serb] forces enter Srebrenica, carry out a slaughter of 5,000 Muslims, and then there will be a military intervention.”

Aleksandar Pavic in Belgrade covers Yugoslavia for

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