Former KLA members face war crimes probe

THE HAGUE, Aug 9, 2000 -- (Reuters) Several members of the former Kosovo Liberation Army face investigation by the UN war crimes tribunal for alleged atrocities committed during NATO's 78-day bombing campaign last year.

Carla del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney general who took over as the UN's main prosecutor nearly a year ago, said in an interview on Tuesday that investigators were looking at five suspected atrocity locations in the Serbian province.

"Some investigations are under way where the victims are Serbs," Del Ponte told Reuters Video News.

She declined to name those who faced the probe and did not give any indications as to which locations were being investigated. But she said the probe was into individuals and not the former guerrilla organization as a whole.

"The investigation is into members of the KLA suspected of committing crimes," she said, adding that the investigation would lead as high up the chain of command as was necessary.

The vast majority of war crimes committed in Kosovo, where up to 10,000 people died, were carried out by the ethnic Serb police and paramilitaries against the ethnic Albanian minority.

"The investigations are under way and we hope to end them as soon as possible," Del Ponte said. But she was unable to say whether the probes would be completed ahead of planned local elections due in the province on October 17.

The KLA was disarmed and disbanded last September as part of the cease-fire agreement that put an end to the bloody conflict.

Some former KLA members are standing in the polls and there has been some violence in the run-up to voting.

Although nominally part of Serbia and Yugoslavia, Kosovo has become a de facto international protectorate run by the UN backed by NATO-led peacekeepers.

Del Ponte said one of the problems investigators faced in Kosovo was that many of the alleged Serb victims had fled the province since NATO-led troops entered in June 1999.

"We are trying to persuade the Serbs to let our investigators in," she said.

Serbia, unlike its fellow Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, does not recognize the authority of the Hague-based tribunal.

Original article