Thu, Nov 25, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Serbia not cooperating, UN says

PROMISES, PROMISES The chief prosecutor for the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague said that pledges to investigate are not enough


The UN war crimes prosecutor for former Yugoslavia accused the government of Serbia and Montenegro of blocking the handover of top fugitives and dismissed Belgrade's promise of cooperation, saying she wants arrests not words.

Nonetheless, Carla del Ponte said she is still optimistic that Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief General Ratko Mladic will face justice before the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

But she told the Security Council on Tuesday that the goverment of Serbia-Montenegro remains "the single most important obstacle" to the prosecution of alleged war criminals from former Yugoslavia, and has deliberately ignored its obligations to cooperate with the UN tribunal.

Next year -- the 10th anniversary of the slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serbs who overran the UN-protected Muslim enclave of Srebrenica -- "I hope we can have Karadzic and Mladic," she told reporters after briefing the council.

"It's incredible. It's a scandal that they are not apprehended and transferred to The Hague," del Ponte said.

Serbia and Montenegro's Minister for Public Administration and Local Self-Government Zoran Loncar, who addressed the council after del Ponte, said that "so far there has been not a single reliable proof that Ratko Mladic is indeed in the territory of Serbia and Montenegro."

Nonetheless, he said, the government is determined to take "all necessary steps" to investigate whether Mladic is in the country, and is already undertaking "a series of concrete measures with a view to tracking down and finding the indicted persons" who del Ponte says are in Serbia.

Serbia-Montenegro is the country that last year replaced Yugoslavia. Serbia is the dominant republic in the union.

At a meeting in Belgrade on Monday, the president and prime minister of Serbia and their counterparts from Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity, concluded that "vigorous and resolute efforts should be undertaken" to resolve the remaining issues with the tribunal, Loncar said.

But Del Ponte countered that "when we speak about the Serbian government and arrest of fugitives, we have no cooperation at all."

Twenty people indicted for war crimes by the tribunal are still at large, and probably more than a dozen live freely in Serbia, where Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has made clear he is only willing to convince fugitives to surrender voluntarily rather than arrest them, she said.

The Serbian government has "a lot of indications" of where Karadzic and Mladic are, she said, and three generals indicted for crimes in Kosovo in 1998-99 "are moving very freely in Belgrade," del Ponte said.

"They must arrest them," she said. "They are not hiding."

Citing one example of Serbia-Montenegro's obstruction, she said hours after the tribunal on July 13 gave authorities in Belgrade information about the sealed indictment against former Croat Serb leader Goran Hadzic, "my investigators observed that he was informed and left immediately."

He remains in hiding and Loncar said the government has launched an investigation to determine how classified information was leaked to Hadzic.

The Security Council has set out a timetable for the Yugoslav tribunal and the tribunal prosecuting those responsible for the 1994 Rwanda genocide to complete all trials by 2008 and finish appeals by 2010 -- the target for ending their work.

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