Accessibility links

UN Prosecutor Urges Delay on Kosovo's Future Status

U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte is urging the Security Council to put off deciding the future of Kosovo until top Balkans war crimes suspects are in custody. From U.N. headquarters, VOA's Peter Heinlein reports the prosecutor noted increasing Serbian cooperation with efforts to bring top fugitives to The Hague for trial.

Chief Yugoslavia war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte says the failure to arrest former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic is a permanent stain on the court's work.

Both men were indicted 11 years ago for genocide and war crimes committed during the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995.

Del Ponte told the Security Council Mladic and Karadzic are believed to be in Serbia, or within Serbia's reach.

"The continuing impunity enjoyed by Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic gravely undermines all efforts to bring justice to the victims," said Carla del Ponte. "This impunity also seriously undermines the credibility of the international tribunal."

But Del Ponte told the Council there are some encouraging signs in the hunt for Mladic and Karadzic, including increased Serbian cooperation with the tribunal.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Del Ponte indicated that efforts to apprehend the fugitives are at a delicate stage, and suggested it might be helpful if the Security Council puts off any decision concerning independence for Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province until the two fugitives are in custody.

"It would be better if the decision on Kosovo is not coming out now, if it would be postponed, because it could interfere in the cooperation with that," she said. "What I said, and it is very clear, postpone until we have Mladic and Karadzic and other fugitives. I'm not recommending nothing. I'm just saying it would be preferable for us."

Security Council diplomats confirmed a French news agency report Sunday that a draft resolution is under consideration calling for a "cooling off period" in deciding Kosovo's future. One diplomat, who is not authorized to speak publicly, said the period, possibly 120 days, would allow for further discussion on a proposal by U.N. Kosovo envoy Martti Ahtisaari to grant "supervised independence" to the secessionist Serbian province.