BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro – A senior Bosnian Serb general indicted for genocide in the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica (search) is to surrender to the U.N. war crimes tribunal, the Serbian government said Sunday.
Vinko Pandurevic (search), a top fugitive since the end of the 1992-1995 war in neighboring Bosnia, was to travel to the Netherlands on Wednesday to give himself up to the U.N. court at The Hague, the government said in a statement.
He will be the 10th Serb war crimes suspect to give himself up to the tribunal since October. Belgrade (search) has been under intense international pressure to extradite about a dozen suspects still at large before the European Union issues a report, expected in April, on whether the Balkan country could one day start membership negotiations.
Last week, the EU delayed membership talks with Croatia, saying that country had not done enough to extradite a top Croat suspect to the U.N. court.
Pandurevic, who commanded the Bosnian Serb army's so-called Zvornik Brigade, was "persuaded to surrender voluntarily during talks with Serbian Justice Minister Zoran Stojkovic," the Serb government statement said.
The Serbian government quoted Pandurevic as saying his decision to surrender was a result of a "desire to help his nation," and that it was in the "best interest of the state" for him to go.
Under wartime military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic, Bosnian Serb troops, including Pandurevic's brigade, stormed the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, then a U.N.-protected area, in July 1995. The onslaught was followed by summary executions of Muslim men and boys in what became Europe's worst carnage since World War II.
Later Sunday, in footage aired on private BK Television in Belgrade, Pandurevic said he felt morally responsible for the Srebrenica atrocities taking place, but that he neither knew of the crimes nor was in a position to prevent them.
"Truth will prevail," Pandurevic said, adding that he was innocent of the charges.
The U.N. indictment against Pandurevic — issued in 1998 and unsealed in 2001 — charges him with eight counts of genocide, complicity to genocide, violations of the laws or customs of war and crimes against humanity.
It alleges that Pandurevic, 45, acted as a direct subordinate of Bosnian Serb army official Gen. Radislav Krstic, who is now serving a 35-year prison term for aiding and abetting genocide at Srebrenica.
The indictment said Krstic and Pandurevic intended to "destroy a part of the Bosnian Muslim people as a national, ethnical or religious group."
After the war, Pandurevic became a member of the general staff of the Bosnian Serb army, but was relieved from that position in 1998, when he went into hiding.
The other suspects still at large are believed hiding in Serbia or neighboring Bosnia. The two most wanted fugitives are Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia have staged several unsuccessful raids to capture Pandurevic, including one in 2002 at his father's home in the village of Jasik and recently at a suspected hideout at a relative's apartment in northeastern Bosnia.
Also Sunday, Stojkovic, the justice minister, said he hoped for more surrenders in the coming days — particularly that of former army Gen. Nebojsa Pavkovic, sought in connection to the 1998-99 war which Serb troops waged in the southern Kosovo province.
Also, in a move against suspects still at large, a top government body for cooperation with The Hague court was to convene Monday in Belgrade to deliberate ways of freezing assets of Mladic and the other fugitives.
The move could led to a legislation or court order preventing Mladic and others from selling property or drawing money from bank accounts in the country.