Australia could see more war crimes extradition requests

New information indicates more Australians could be the subjects of future extradition requests by Bosnia-Herzegovina, following the arrest of a Canberra man over alleged war crimes dating back to the 1990s Bosnian war.

In a statement to SBS, the Bosnian Ministry for Justice says there are other cases, and extradition requests for people, in Australia and other countries relating to war crimes and other criminal offences.

But it says it wouldn't be appropriate for the individuals to be named because once they're aware of the authorities' interest they've been known to leave the country to avoid prosecution.

Australian authorities recently detained 39-year-old Canberra man Krunoslav Bonic, who is accused of committing war crimes during the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s.

The Bosnian government says in 2006, Mr Bonic was charged with war crimes against civilians, relating to acts that allegedly occurred in April and May of 1993, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

At the time of the alleged offences he would have been 18 years old, and is understood to have been fighting with Bosnian Croat forces.

According to the statement, the first extradition request for Mr Bonic was made in 2007.

But a reply from Australia the following year stated that under its Extradition Act, it was not one of the countries to which Australia could extradite someone, so the request could not be accepted. 

The statement follows that in December 2009 Australia further advised that Bosnia had become an extradition country under the Act, and it would be possible to renew extradition requests, among which was Krunoslav Bonic.

Bosnia re-issued a request for Mr Bonic's extradition in February 2010, under special conditions set out by the Australian government.

He was taken into police custody in 2014.

International law experts say it's not unusual for years to pass between the submission of an extradition request and a subsequent arrest.

"It's often the case that these extradition matters can considerable periods of time, not only in terms of the extradited person eventually being transferred to the country seeking the extradition, but also in terms of extradition requests being processed and persons actually being arrested as a result of that," Professor of International Law at the Australian National University told SBS.

Australia does not have an extradition agreement with Bosnia.

Instead, the consideration of the request for Krunoslav Bonic is based on what's known as the principle of reciprocity.

Professor Rothwell adds that the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries could complicate the process.

"The standard procedures that arise under treaty type frameworks are not going to be in place and that will add additional levels of complexity to the process and, quite possibly, allow some level of additional political judgment to be exercised as to whether extradition should occur," he says.

Source SBS

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