Church leaders in the Balkans have warned that the extradition of alleged war criminals to the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague risks "creating martyrs," and cautioned against using recent cases to suggest all Balkan people are "equally guilty."

"We in Croatia must accept guilt for bad things in our people's history, and our church will contribute to this [effort]," said Bishop Vlado Kosic, Roman Catholic co-chairman of Croatia's Ecumenical Coordinating Committee of Churches. "But many believe the international community shares the blame for what happened. It will be quite wrong to use these extraditions to suggest we are all morally equivalent."

The bishop's comments came after the Croatian government handed over two generals for alleged crimes against Serb civilians during the 1991-95 war.

Croatian newspapers said the generals—whose names have not been released—had been implicated in a massacre at Medak and a mass killing during the Croatian army's reoccupation of Serb-occupied Krajina and western Slavonia.

However, four government ministers from the nationalist Social-Liberal Party resigned in protest of Croatia's handing over of the men. The decision came less than two weeks after ex-president Slobodan Milosevic was handed over by neighboring Serbia.

Kosic said the decision to hand over Croatian generals was "hard to accept for people deeply convinced that Croatia did nothing wrong, and that their nation was only the victim of a great enemy with all forceful means at its disposal."

Croatia's predominant Roman Catholic Church believes "law and justice" should be applied to all wrongdoers, he said, but opposes the notion of "collective guilt."

Kosic added that the generals' alleged crimes were "an exception," not ...

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