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Belgrade Invites Chief Prosecutor - Del Ponte visit to Belgrade reflects improved relations with tribunal

Tribunal Update 199 Last Week in The Hague (November 13-18, 2000)

Immediately after the October 5 revolution, Kostunica stressed cooperation with the tribunal was "not a priority". This line has gradually shifted to an acknowledgement that it is an international obligation accepted by Milosevic when he signed the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995.

Last week, the Yugoslav justice ministry informed Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte that she could come to Belgrade to reopen the OTP office, closed down in 1999 after two and half years of operation, during which its work was severely restricted by the Milosevic regime.

OTP spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said on Wednesday del Ponte had immediately requested a visa and was planning to travel to Belgrade in late November or early December.

Deputy Chief Prosecutor Graham Blewitt outlined the delegation's goals and priorities in an interview for Tribunal Update and the Sense news agency television programme "The Tribunal."

"The objectives and priorities include the ability to resume investigations and to interview witnesses and victims living in Serbia," Blewitt said. "These are people who are victims of crimes committed not only in Kosovo, but also in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. In addition, we want to get access to documents that may be held in Belgrade, relating to those very same investigations."

Blewitt added the prosecutor is "very anxious" to pursue financial investigations against the Milosevic regime.

On the issue of Hague indictees, Blewitt said the OTP considers it a "primary priority" the eight accused, known as the "Kosovo Five" headed by Milosevic, and the "Vukovar Three", are arrested and extradited.

Blewitt said the OTP believed all eight are still in Serbia. In addition, he said, "we believe that there are in excess of ten fugitives from Republika Srpska hiding in Serbia.

"They have to be brought to justice if there is going to be any end to the circle of violence in the Balkans."

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