The Nando Times - Balkans war crimes probes to double in coming year

By JEROME SOCOLOVSKY

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (December 22, 1999) - The U.N. chief prosecutor on Wednesday announced that investigations into crimes committed during the war in Yugoslavia would double next year, part of a push aimed at indicting 150 suspects - many of them high-ranking figures - before the tribunal finishes its work in 2004.

Carla del Ponte also said next year's top priority would be to pursue Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, an indicted war criminal, and other figures responsible for Balkan bloodshed.

"You have not yet seen the whole of the investigative activity of the office of the prosecutor," she said.

Del Ponte said 36 war crimes investigations would be in full swing in the Balkans next year after the launch of 17 new probes.

She predicted that the work of the tribunal, established in 1993 by the U.N. Security Council, would be completed in four years after serving 150 indictments - five times the number of suspects currently in custody.

"We expect that this will be finished progressively over the next four years by end of 2004," she said. "We anticipate this will involve 150 suspects, almost all at a high level of responsibility."

Del Ponte also welcomed NATO's detention Monday of Gen. Stanislav Galic, the commander responsible for the siege of Sarajevo.

But she said more efforts to arrest top figures were needed and she would urge NATO next month to set up a special police force that would focus on detaining suspected war criminals.

Del Ponte also dismissed criticism by Milosevic's wife, Mirjana Markovic, who reportedly compared the tribunal to the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, and called its detention center "a sophisticated replacement for concentration camps and crematoria."

"If I could speak with Madame Milosevic," del Ponte said, "I would tell her to invite her husband to the detention center to see how comfortable it is."

Del Ponte, also chief prosecutor for the U.N. tribunal on Rwanda, said she would devote half of her time to the Tanzania-based court to improve operations there. That appeared to be a gesture to the Rwandan authorities, who angrily suspended cooperation with the tribunal after a key genocide suspect was released on a technicality.

"The year 2000 will be a big year" for the Rwanda tribunal, she said.

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