Washington Post - NATO Urged To Arrest War Suspects

By Edith M. Lederer
Associated Press Writer

Monday, Nov. 8, 1999; 9:33 p.m. EST

UNITED NATIONS –– The outgoing president of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal urged NATO and the U.N. Security Council on Monday to step up efforts to arrest top war crimes suspects and get tough with the Serb, Croat and Bosnian governments that "thumb their nose" at the court.

After six years on the court – the last two as its president – Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald of the United States displayed frustration that the court's caseload is dominated by low-level figures.

That's because the NATO-led force in Bosnia hasn't arrested key leaders indicted for atrocities, including wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his top general Ratko Mladic.

And Yugoslavia refuses to recognize the tribunal's jurisdiction and arrest President Slobodan Milosevic, she said.

"Are they somehow to be given preferential treatment?" she asked.

In its sixth annual report released two weeks ago, the tribunal said that 35 individuals named in public indictments remain at large, mostly in the Balkans. The court counts on NATO forces and national governments to carry out arrests.

McDonald noted that the NATO-led forces in Bosnia has arrested six low-level figures indicted for war crimes.

But four years after his indictment, Karadzic remains free, reportedly in the city of Pale, in Bosnia's Serb-controlled entity, she said.

NATO troops need "to arrest them, very simple," she told a news conference after briefing the U.N. General Assembly for the last time before she steps down on Nov. 16.

McDonald also voiced frustration at the Security Council for ignoring her repeated appeals to take action against the Serb, Croat and Bosnian governments for their "obstructionism" toward the court and failure to hand over those indicted for war crimes.

"If states are allowed to basically thumb their nose at the tribunals ... then it can have a snowballing effect," she said, warning that other countries may be led to believe they can delay or escape justice.

She singled out the council's failure to respond to two personal appeals she made – to act against Belgrade for its refusal to extradite three former Yugoslav army officers suspected of ordering the massacre of 261 Croats taken from a hospital in Vukovar in eastern Croatia in 1991.

The council can take a whole range of actions, including sanctions, she said.

McDonald, who has been on the court since it was established by the Security Council in 1993, said the council has a responsibility to support the tribunal because it has no way to enforce compliance.

McDonald is a former U.S. federal judge and professor at Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law. She is planning to live in New York City, where she grew up. She has not disclosed her future plans.

Her successor hasn't been chosen yet.

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