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Opinion: A miscarriage of British justice

Claims that Bosnian professor Ejup Ganic committed war crimes against Serbian invaders are flawed and misconceived.

Former Bosnian leader Ejup Ganic leaves a police station in London, on March 12, 2010, after appearing as required by his bail conditions following his release from prison. Ganic, detained at London's Heathrow airport in early March on an extradition request from Serbia, must adhere to "stringent" conditions to ensure he does not flee, the High Court in London ruled. (Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Monday, March 1, 2010, on the eve of his 64th birthday, Professor Ejup Ganic was arrested.

A United States-educated academic and former member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzogovina, Ganic was en route to his home in Sarajevo via Heathrow Airport. Taken into custody by officers from Scotland Yard's Extradition Unit and brought before a magistrate, he was immediately incarcerated in a London prison. For three days, he was denied access to consular services, his lawyers and his family. The United Kingdom government’s excuse was administrative error.

Over these several weeks, the highly regarded system of British justice has been seriously questioned. Though Ganic has now been released on bail, the conditions are stringent: He must report daily to the police, stay at one address in London, and he is not allowed to travel.

This stunning state of affairs came about because the Republic of Serbia, which waged a bloody war on Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 and placed Sarajevo under the most appalling siege of modern times, made a preliminary request to the U.K. for Ganic’s extradition. It alleged that he had committed war crimes in 1992 during the Serbian-led aggression against Bosnia. These allegations have already been investigated — and dismissed — by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Serbian authorities have one month to produce evidence to back up their request for extradition. At that point, a date will be arranged for a judge to decide the future of Ganic. His barrister, or Queen's Counsel, Clare Montgomery, has described the attempt to prosecute him as a mockery of justice. His solicitor, Stephen Gentle, maintains that Serbia’s request is flawed and misconceived.

Bosnian authorities have protested strongly to the British ambassador in Sarajevo about Ganic’s treatment. They maintain rightly that this action is in contravention of international treaties on consular and diplomatic relations. The shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, has asked Foreign Secretary David Miliband to investigate. He is anxious that there is a real risk of repercussions between the U.K. and Bosnia, as well as other Balkan nations. In fact, thousands of Bosnians have gathered outside the British embassy in Sarajevo to register their concern and show their support for Ganic.

Why did they arrest Ganic? The allegations are a thin attempt to pretend that the conduct of Bosnian leaders to defend their country during the war was no different from the barbarism perpetrated by Serb political and military forces. Human rights groups have consistently found that the huge majority of atrocities committed during the war were at the hands of the Serbs. It’s not a blanket indictment of all Serbs to insist that those who allegedly led the genocide be put to trial, nor is it “even-handed” to accuse leaders on all sides.