Bosnian Serbs stop cooperating with state over arrest of 5 Serb war crimes suspects

The Bosnian Serb regional government said Thursday it has stopped all cooperation with the state court, prosecution office and police because they ordered or carried out the arrest of five Serb war crimes suspects and raided a local police station in the Serb republic.

The decision was announced after an extraordinary government session, hours after the state police made the arrest in the northern town of Bosanski Novi.

The five are suspected of having killed 27 Muslim Bosnian civilians and having expelled the rest of the Muslim population from the town during the 1992-95 war after torturing them and looting their homes.

State police also raided the local police station and municipality looking for evidence related to the case that they believed had been hidden there.

The interior minister of the Bosnian Serb region, Dragan Lukac, said the raid was a violation of the principles of cooperation with local police and that the Bosnian court has "expressed substantial mistrust when it said it believes evidence related to the case could have been destroyed or hidden."

Lukac said the court could have simply asked for the evidence or sent an investigator to look at it. But since it didn't, the regional government has ordered Serb police to prevent any further attempt by state police to enter and search any government institutions on the territory of Republika Srpska — the Serb half of Bosnia.

Bosnia's prosecution office said it has evidence which proves that local police structures in Bosanski Novi were "actively and directly involved in removing and hiding the bodies of the 27 victims" and that the raid was conducted correctly and in accordance with the law.