Serbia: Del Ponte gets assurances war crimes suspects will be arrested

Belgrade, 26 Oct. (AKI) - The UN Yugoslav war crimes tribunal chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte ended a two-day visit to Belgrade on Friday with assurances from president Boris Tadic and prime minister Vojislav Kostunica that Serbian authorities will do everything in their power to locate and arrest the remaining four fugitives indicted for war crimes by the tribunal.

“Serbia is doing everything to complete the cooperation and the state interest is that the war crimes indictees wind up in the Hague tribunal,” Tadic said.

Kostunica added there was “political will” to finish the cooperation with the of the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and to arrest the remaining four fugitives, including wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his general Ratko Mladic.

Serbian authorities claim they have no knowledge of where the fugitives may be hiding, but Del Ponte has repeatedly claimed Mladic is hiding in Serbia, while Karadzic’s whereabouts were unknown. She sad it was “very important that the accused find themselves before the tribunal as soon as possible."

Last week, Del Ponte failed to give a green light for Serbia’s signing up for pre-entry talks with the European Union because Belgrade’s cooperation with the ICTY wasn’t completed. Further EU steps depend on her report after Belgrade visit, but she gave no clue what the report might be.

Del Ponte also talked with special prosecutor for war crimes Vladimir Vukcevic and president of the National council for cooperation with the ICTY Rasim Ljajic, who gave her assurances that they were doing their best to apprehend the fugitives. Ljajic pointed out that Serbia has in the past year handed over to the tribunal close to 20 indictees and said it should be taken into account.

"It is quite discouraging that the tribunal continues to condition Serbia and the EU and keeps prolonging the signing of the Stabilisation and Association agreement,” Ljajic said.

“If our past efforts aren’t valued adequately, I see no motivation for the cooperation to be brought to a successful conclusion,” he said.

 The court has indicted 161 individuals, mostly Serbs, for crimes committed in the 1990s Balkan wars and more than fifty have been sentenced so far.


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