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Kosovo Investigation

Del Ponte seeks Tribunal statute changes to allow investigation into alleged Albanians crimes

Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte has called on the United Nations Security Council to amend Article 5 of the Tribunal statute relating to crimes against humanity in order to address crimes committed against Serb and other non-Albanian people in Kosovo since the arrival of international forces in June 1999.

Under Article 5, the Tribunal's jurisdiction to prosecute persons responsible for crimes against humanity is limited to offences committed "during an armed conflict, whether international or internal in character".

Del Ponte has called for the reference to "armed conflict" to be omitted, as it was for the Rwanda tribunal. She said the change was necessary in order to investigate allegations of "continued ethnic cleansing against the remaining Serb and Roma population".

The chief prosecutor said the court's "forced inaction over what has happened in Kosovo since June 1999 [the arrival of international forces and the end of armed conflict] undermines the Tribunal's historical credibility.

"We must ensure that the Tribunal's unique chance to bring justice to the populations of the former Yugoslavia does not pass into history as having been flawed and biased in favour of one ethnic group against another.

"Besides, if we obtain this morally justified and necessary extension of our mandate, the Tribunal might become a deterrent factor against the ongoing ethnic-cleansing campaign in Kosovo."

Del Ponte also presented preliminary results from this year's programme of exhumations in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

In Kosovo, she said, prosecution investigators and forensic experts from eight countries examined over 300 sites. The remains of 1,577 people had been uncovered, as well as the incomplete remains of a further 258 victims.

Having added on the 2,108 bodies exhumed last year, del Ponte said it was now possible "to build up a complete picture of the extent and pattern of the crimes."

She said it would never be possible to provide an accurate figure for the number of people killed "because of deliberate attempts to burn the bodies or to conceal them in other ways."

Having established a more "complete picture" of events in Kosovo, the prosecution is to expand on existing indictments against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his four associates, Milan Milutinovic, Nikola Sainovic, Dragoljub Ojdanic and Vlajko Stojiljkovic.

The office of the prosecutor announced the expanded indictments would include new crimes and new accused.

Meanwhile, del Ponte said prosecution teams have also exhumed mass graves in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Nearly 500 bodies and a large number of incomplete remains had been found at eight locations. Four of the sites were around Srebrenica and prosecutors announced results from tests conducted there would be introduced as material evidence in the trial of General Radislav Krstic, former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army Drina Corps, accused of genocide for his alleged role in the Srebrenica massacres.