Hague Complains to UN Over Belgrade Resistance
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague complained to the U.N. Security Council Tuesday over Serbia and Montenegro's lack of cooperation with its investigation of crimes committed in the 1990s Balkan wars.
The tribunal has no powers to sanction any country that does not cooperate with it, but writing to the Security Council is among the most serious steps the court can take.
Serbia's chances of joining the European Union and NATO as well as its access to aid and debt relief hinge on its cooperation with the war crimes tribunal, but relations have cooled alongside popular discontent with pro-Western reformers.
The tribunal's president Judge Theodor Meron has written to the Security Council to highlight a report by its chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte that described Serbia and Montenegro's cooperation as "nearly non-existent."
The letter said del Ponte complained of Belgrade's failure to execute arrest warrants issued by the tribunal and to help secure witnesses' testimonies and documentary evidence and said cooperation had declined since Serbian elections in December.
"I view the report of the prosecutor as indicating extremely serious failures," Meron wrote, adding the lack of cooperation could hurt the tribunal's ability to meet its deadlines.
The Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in a resolution passed in 1993. The tribunal is due to complete indictments this year and wind up its trials by 2008 and its appeals by 2010.
Del Ponte has repeatedly asserted that top Bosnian Serb army commander General Ratko Mladic, wanted by the tribunal on genocide charges, is hiding in Serbia.
But Serbia denies any knowledge of his whereabouts or that of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, accused of the slaughtering civilians in the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre of thousands of Muslims.
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose trial on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes has already taken two years and has been repeatedly delayed due to his ill health, is due to open his defense on June 8.
Serbia's ultra-nationalist Radical Party, whose leader is also on trial in The Hague, became parliament's biggest group in last December's election, capitalizing on discontent with economic reform after Milosevic was ousted as president in 2000.
Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who formed a minority government that has to rely for support on votes from Milosevic's Socialist Party, has been cool on cooperating with the tribunal, which he regards as biased against Serbs.
Opinion polls show that Tomislav Nikolic, acting leader of the Radical Party, is favorite to win the June 13 presidential election amid Western fears he could halt economic and political reforms and withdraw cooperation with the U.N. tribunal.
The United States suspended $26 million in aid to Serbia in March, citing its inadequate cooperation with the U.N. tribunal, but it did not block a recent International Monetary Fund deal to restart lending and release debt relief to Serbia.
- VICTORIA BECKHAM
- SARAJEVO - BiH
- Mervana Jugić-Salkić ( 24-5 )