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Del Ponte Slams Serbia in Last Report to UN

Chief prosecutor pulls no punches in her assessment of Belgrade’s cooperation with the tribunal.

Carla Del Ponte accused Serbian officials of “willful obstruction” and told world powers they lacked the will to arrest fugitives from justice, in her last statement as chief prosecutor of the Hague tribunal.

Del Ponte has repeatedly thought the captures of Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Ratko Mladic and Radavan Karadzic were imminent, but leaves office after eight years with them still at large.

“Despite the Serbian authorities' declared commitment to fully cooperate with my office and improved procedures, there is no clear roadmap, no clear plan in the search for fugitives, no serious leads and no sign that serious efforts have been taken to arrest the fugitives,” she said in her last report to the United Nations Security Council on December 10.

“This is a job that requires the full commitment of the State and of all of its relevant institutions. Unfortunately, we have seen that level of commitment only in words, not in deeds… In short, there is no full cooperation with my office.”

She said Serbian security organs failed to cooperate with the Hague tribunal, or with each other, and she even accused officials of “willful obstruction”.

Full cooperation would be shown only with the arrest and transfer of Mladic, who is accused of orchestrating the genocide of Bosniaks in Srebrenica in 1995.

“I urge the international community to seriously address this issue. I ask in particular the European Union Member States and the European Union's Commission to maintain their principled position by insisting on Serbia's full cooperation with the International Tribunal as a condition in the EU pre-accession and accession process,” she said.

The tribunal’s president, Judge Fausto Pocar, also addressed the UN Security Council this week and pleaded with it to let the court remain open until all fugitives are caught and tried.

The Hague tribunal is due to shut down by 2010, even if four high-profile suspects remain at large.

“The tribunal should not close its doors before these fugitives are arrested and tried. I urge the Security Council to make it clear that the trial of these fugitives by the international community does not hinge upon the tribunal's proposed completion strategy dates,” President Pocar said in his December 10 speech.

He said the tribunal had improved efficiency and sped up its own operations, while helping courts in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia conduct cases. Courts in the three countries were now trying 13 suspects handed over by the tribunal, but were still under-resourced.

“There is a desperate need to ensure adequate detention facilities for remand and convicted accused. Much also remains to be achieved in the training of police and prison officers on due process and human rights standards,” he said.

He asked council states to assure money was made available to the tribunal to pay full pensions to its staff, some of whom where having to leave to get pensions in their home countries. If the tribunal failed to retain its judges, then it would struggle to get its work done on schedule, he said.

Oliver Bullough is an IWPR editor.

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