September 19, 2000UN Tribunal: No deal for Milosevic
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- The U.N. war crimes tribunal will "never, never, never" accept an immunity deal for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, the chief prosecutor told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said investigators were in fact preparing to expand Milosevic's indictment for war crimes in Kosovo to include atrocities during the 1992-95 Bosnian War and genocide.
Responding to reports earlier this year that the U.S. government might offer Milosevic an immunity deal if he steps down from politics, Del Ponte said she would never allow such an outcome.
"It's impossible," she said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's impossible because the indictment against Milosevic can be withdrawn only after a request from the prosecutor to the judges. And I'm now the prosecutor and I will never, never, never request a withdrawal of the indictment."
Milosevic, who is seeking re-election as Yugoslav president on Sunday, was indicted last year for ordering war crimes against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo before NATO's 78-day air campaign drove Yugoslav troops out of the Serbian province.
Del Ponte also expressed concern at the decline in the number of indicted suspects apprehended by NATO peacekeepers in the Balkans.
"It's about two or three months that we have had no arrests of fugitives, so I'm a little bit disappointed about that," she said.
But she added she was "still confident" that all the suspects would be arrested "sooner or later," and called on NATO to "play a proactive role to arrest these people."
Of the nearly 70 Serbs, Croats and Muslims indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, fewer than 40 are in custody. Besides Milosevic, prominent fugitives include former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and military chief Ratko Mladic.
The last arrest on behalf of the tribunal took place June 24, when British troops detained Bosnian Serb Dusko Sikirica in Prijedor, Bosnia. Prosecutors say he was in charge of one of the most notorious internment camps of the Bosnian war. He has pleaded innocent.
Del Ponte said she will push for more arrests when she travels to the United States next week and meets with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defense Secretary William Cohen and other top officials. It will be her first visit to Washington as prosecutor.
Del Ponte, a former federal prosecutor of Switzerland, made a name for herself targeting money-laundering in Swiss banks by international organized crime syndicates.
She said she has set up a task force to track down the financial assets of fugitives and is trying to expand the two-person team investigating ways to seize the assets of indicted suspects so they can be used to compensate victims of atrocities.
"In my experience, it's always very important if you can cut the financial possibilities of an accused, especially of the fugitives," she said.
Last week, at Del Ponte's urging, the tribunal's 14 judges recognized victims' rights to financial reparations. However they stopped short of agreeing to consider monetary claims at the tribunal and instead asked the U.N. Security Council to look at means for redress.