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UN Hague Official Pushes Extradition of Yugo War Crimes Suspects - 2002-04-18


The chief prosecutor at the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Carla Del Ponte, has pressured Yugoslav authorities to extradite and arrest indicted war criminals living in Yugoslavia. Ms. Del Ponte has also criticized an extradition law, which was adopted late last week by the Yugoslav Parliament.

The United Nations chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, came to Belgrade Thursday, a week after Yugoslavia's Parliament adopted legislation that allows the extradition of war crimes suspects to the U.N. tribunal at The Hague.

On the eve of Ms. Del Ponte's visit, the Yugoslav government published the names of 23 people it said should surrender within three days to the authorities.

But speaking after talks with Yugoslav officials, Ms. Del Ponte suggested that these measures were only a first step, and that the extradition law does not go far enough.

She said the law was in breach of international legislation because it only allowed the transfer of people who have already been publicly indicted. Ms. Del Ponte also pressured the authorities to speed up efforts to arrest former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, who is wanted in connection with a massacre of up to 8,000 Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.

Analysts say the former war time leader could play a major role in the prosecution's case against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is currently on trial before the U.N. tribunal at The Hague on charges of war crimes, including genocide.

General Mladic is widely believed to be in or near Belgrade under the protection of the Yugoslav army, but authorities deny they know his whereabouts. The interior minister of Yugoslavia's main republic Serbia, Dusan Mihajlovic, told reporters Thursday his government is in no position to hand him over.

Ms. Del Ponte's visit underscored frustration from the international community about what it sees as Yugoslavia's lack of cooperation with U.N. prosecutors.

The United States has frozen millions of dollars in aid after Yugoslavia missed a March 31 deadline to cooperate with the U.N. court. The country desperately needs foreign aid, after a decade of war, which led to wide spread poverty and destruction.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica has criticized the international community for pressuring his nation, pressure, he says, which has already led to the suicide of one suspect, former Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic.

Mr. Stojiljkovic died Sunday, three days after he shot himself in the head in Belgrade, on the stairs of the federal Parliament building.

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