Kouchner 'humiliated' by Serb prisoner escape

LONDON, Sep 6, 2000 -- (AFP) Bernard Kouchner, the head of Kosovo's UN administration, felt "humiliated" by Saturday's escape of 13 Serbs accused of wartime atrocities from a UN-controlled prison in Kosovo, he told the BBC Tuesday.

"We were outraged, we were frustrated, humiliated", the French administrator said.

"We are looking of course for all the responsibilities or negligence or complicities", said Kouchner who spoke in English and who accepted personal responsibility for the fiasco.

He has suspended the UN police officer in charge of the jail in Kosovska Mitrovica, northern Kosovo, from which the prisoners escaped late Saturday, after overpowering four guards and stealing keys.

A full inquiry had been launched, focusing in particular on how a gun came to be smuggled into the jail and warning that any staff found guilty of collusion with inmates faced stiff sanctions.

Police in the ethnically-divided town had to abandon initial attempts to move the remaining 32 prisoners from the jail after some 100 protesters surrounded the prison. Another attempt to transfer them would be made at a later time, according to the UN.

In all, 15 Serb prisoners escaped late Saturday when a prisoner was brought back to his cell and detainees grabbed the escorting officer, beat him over the head with a pistol smuggled into the jail, tied up him with strips of cloth and took his keys. The prisoners then unlocked other cells.

Two of the 15, accused of murder, were later arrested by soldiers of the multinational peacekeeping force when they returned to their cells to fetch personal belongings.

Original article