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Prosecutor: Serbia Blocking War Crimes Indictments


The chief prosecutor of the U.N. Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has accused Serbia of blocking the prosecution of suspected war criminals. The prosecutor charged that powerful networks in two other countries are also protecting war crimes suspects.

U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte says there are still 20 indicted war fugitives at large in three states of the former Yugoslavia. Addressing the Security Council Tuesday, she charged that lack of official cooperation is the main obstacle to bringing these fugitives to justice.

"The governments of Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have the main responsibility in bringing these fugitives to The Hague," she said. "A vast majority of them, probably more than a dozen, live freely in Serbia."

Ms. Del Ponte singled out Serbia for special criticism. She said Serbian authorities had failed to apprehend a single person indicted by the war crimes tribunal.

Among those Ms. Del Ponte singled out as moving about freely were the two most wanted war crimes suspects, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his army commander, Radko Mladic.

Serbia's minister for self-government, Zoran Loncir, denied the prosecutor's allegations. He told the Security Council his government was fully cooperating with the war crimes tribunal, and was doing everything possible to track down Radko Mladic.

But speaking to reporters after the session, Ms. Del Ponte ridiculed the minister's comments. She said there is clear evidence of Mr. Mladic's whereabouts.

"They know exactly that he is in Serbia, they have a lot of information, not only information from us, but from other institutions that Mladic is in Serbia," she added.

In his remarks to the Security Council, Washington's U.N. ambassador, John Danforth, said Serbia must fulfill its obligations to cooperate with war crimes tribunals, known as the ICTY, or risk being ostracized from the West.

"We note that the Republika Srpska has failed to render a single fugitive indictee to the Tribunal and Serbia and Montenegro's cooperation has deteriorated to a standstill in the past 12 months," said Mr. Danforth. "The United States and others have made clear that upholding international obligations to the ICTY is a prerequisite for further integration into the Euro-Atlantic community."

Prosecutor Del Ponte said Serbia's lack of cooperation remains the single most important obstacle to achieving the war crimes tribunal's goal of completing all trials by 2008.

The Security Council also heard Tuesday from the chief prosecutor of the Rwanda war crimes tribunal. Prosecutor Hassan Jallow said a number of people indicted on genocide charges remain at large. He said most of the fugitives are believed to be in neighboring Congo.