U.N. tribunal indictments almost ready against Milosevic for Bosnia, Croatia

Monday, April 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ The U.N. tribunal has nearly completed new indictments against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia, a spokeswoman said Monday.

The indictments would be in addition to the arrest warrant already issued against Milosevic on charges linked to the massacres of hundreds of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and the persecution or displacement of 740,000 people during the 1999 Kosovo war.

That separate warrant was issued in May 1999 and reissued this January.

Tribunal spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said more indictments against Milosevic would be ready ``in a few weeks or months'' for crimes committed in the early 1990s in the breakaway republics of Bosnia and Croatia.

Genocide was among the charges being investigated, she said.

Authorities in Croatia and Bosnia were assisting with the investigation after years of hostile resistance, she said.

``We have the indictments. We are just completing the investigation,'' she told The Associated Press.

After Milosevic's arrest in Belgrade Sunday morning, the war crimes tribunal in The Hague asked Yugoslav justice authorities to hand him the warrant for crimes against humanity in Kosovo.

The serving of the indictment would be seen in The Hague as loaded with significance since Yugoslavia has defied an international clamor to surrender its former leaders for an international trial.

``It would mean they recognize that he has been indicted by us and that there is another procedure against him,'' said Hartmann. ``Afterward, they will have to transfer him to The Hague.''

Yugoslavia plans to try Milosevic for corruption and abuse of power at home. But the tribunal said Belgrade has ``a binding legal obligation'' to hand him over to tribunal first. Milosevic gave himself up after a 26-hour siege of his Belgrade villa, but only after negotiators assured him he would not be handed over immediately to the war crimes tribunal.

Hartmann said she expected Milosevic to be handed over for trial before the end of this year. ``It will be Milosevic in the Hague in 2001,'' she said.

That loose time frame is a concession by Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who previously had demanded that Milosevic and other indicted wartime leaders be transferred to The Hague immediately upon their arrest.

In further moves toward Belgrade, Del Ponte has said the tribunal could consider allowing a Yugoslav court to prosecute Milosevic for domestic crimes while he is waiting for trial in The Hague, and that part of the war crimes proceedings could be conducted in Belgrade.

But she insists he must first surrender to the tribunal, whose charges have primacy.

Milosevic was indicted in May 1999 on four counts of crimes against humanity and violation of the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war during the Serb campaign against Kosovo earlier that year.