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Hague Prosecutor Says War Crimes Suspect Mladic Hides in Serbia

Chief prosecutor of UN war crimes tribunal, Carla del Ponte, addresses journalists after a series of meetings held with International and local officials in Bosnia, in Sarajevo, June 3, 2005
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, said Tuesday in Washington that accused war criminal Ratko Mladic is in Serbia and that she is optimistic he will be arrested by the end of this year.

Ms. Del Ponte says there is no doubt that the former general who commanded Bosnian Serb forces during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre is in Serbia. Her optimism that General Mladic will be handed over is based on what she regards as a fundamental change of policy by Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Three years ago, she says, Mr. Kostunica complained bitterly of the tribunal's bias and asserted that Serbs were mere victims from the wars of Yugoslav succession. But now, following the (June 1) release of a video-tape documenting Serb atrocities, she says, Mr. Kostunica has changed his view.

also perpetrators," she said. "And since the beginning of this year he has transferred many of our accused [to the Hague]."

Ms. Del Ponte, who before assuming her present position was an anti-Mafia prosecutor in her native Switzerland, was asked if the release of the video showing Serbian special forces executing unarmed Bosnian Muslims would have much impact in Serbia. She is cautiously optimistic that it will.

"[But] Don't forget that during 10 years of Milosevic rule, they [the Serbs] received total disinformation," she said. "So you need to work on that, to show the truth of the facts of what happened. But it is extremely difficult."

Just as many Serbs continue to regard their nation as a victim, Ms. Del Ponte says she is equally concerned that many Croatians still regard the indicted general Ante Gotovina as a hero for driving Serbian forces out of Croatia. Ms. Del Ponte says if General Gotovina is innocent, he should come to the Hague to defend himself.

"We are open and ready to listen to General Gotovina for his defense," said Ms. Del Ponte. "But he prefers to hide. Is that a courageous behavior for a general? Not in my view, and also for Mladic and Karadjic."

Ms. Del Ponte commended the Croatian government for presenting an action plan to arrest General Gotovina. She said she hopes the Croats will arrest General Gotovina within the next four months.