Tracking War Criminals

Carla del Ponte has been chief prosecutor of The Hague tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda since 1999. Her determination, her record and her no-nonsense style have won her respect in Western capitals but caused run-ins with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica. In Washington for her first meeting with Bush administration officials last week, she talked about The Hague, war crimes and Slobodan Milosevic with NEWSWEEK's Roy Gutman and Daniel Klaidman. Excerpts:

DEL PONTE: I think the most important difference is that the Yugoslav tribunal [and] the Rwanda tribunal will not have jurisdiction over American citizens.

It seems so.

Until the end of March, with the problems of certification [of U.S. aid to Belgrade looming], we received some cooperation: the transfer of one fugitive, the voluntary surrender of another, even the arrest of Milosevic... But after they obtained that certification, nothing.

I was very surprised especially about the attitude of President Kostunica... I was sure when we met we could fix a program of cooperation. But he was absolutely [in denial], denying even the existence of the tribunal--just accusing the tribunal, because the Serbs are only victims. I think it is really important for this country that they face the reality of what happened, not only in Serbia--but in Kosovo and Bosnia.

I'm very positive... [I feel] that I will have full support and more support than [from] Clinton.

No, no. We have 38 fugitives... almost all in different territories: French, American, German and British. So there's a lot of work to be done.

They must stop saying such stupidity. Sure [fugitives] are moving [from zone to zone]. But now we have Serbia saying they are not in Serbia or Belgrade... So they disappear. Our fugitives are going I don't know where... After one year and seven months, I am disappointed and frustrated by SFOR... Nobody else has such power, such technical [superiority]. And they are doing nothing.

In October, we will be ready with the indictment.

The United States is giving very, very good support. I am very happy about that because the European Union support is low-level. The EU... doesn't want to put conditions [on aid]. I am counting on the Americans.

That is the only, only voice they hear... I am sure it is the only way to obtain what we need to make justice.

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