Serbia Presses UN Prosecutor to Look into Albanian War Crimes
UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte on Tuesday held talks with Serbia's deputy prime minister who asked her to look into allegations of war crimes committed by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
The meeting came a day after Serbia insisted that it would not hand over President Milan Milutinovic who has been indicted by the tribunal based in The Hague for war crimes in Kosovo.
Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said the talks centred on war crimes committed by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo rather than the handover of the 15 Serbian nationals indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
"The meeting focused on Kosovo... we proposed handing over to the court all the information we have on crimes that the Kosovo Liberation Army committed in Kosovo," Covic said after the meeting.
"We will also present evidence on crimes committed (by the ethnic Albanian guerrillas) in southern Serbia," the minister said.
Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic on Monday said he would push for ethnic Albanians to come before the court.
Del Ponte refused to make any comment after Tuesday's encounter.
Del Ponte's spokeswoman Florence Hartmann earlier said that during talks Tuesday, the UN court would push for all war crimes indictees in Serbia to be transferred to The Hague-based court.
The court is particularly anxious to see Serbian President Milan Milutinovic transferred to The Hague to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Belgrade's crackdown on Kosovo's ethnic Albanian community in 1998-99.
Milutinovic, who along with former president Slobodan Milosevic and three other top officials indicted over Kosovo, is the only leader to have retained his post following the October 2000 revolt which toppled Milosevic.
It was a turnabout for Serbia after its reformist leaders engineered the handover of Milosevic to the war crimes court on June 28, angering federal President Vojislav Kostunica.
Kovic insisted that there was "no question" of further extraditions in talks with Del Ponte on Tuesday.
"We didn't talk about that. The meeting focused on cooperation in general," Covic said, adding that Del Ponte and the court had put no pressure on Serbian authorities.
The deputy prime minister's comments echo those of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic who said on Monday that under Serbian law elected officials enjoy immunity from prosecution and that Milutinovic would not be sent to the ICTY.
"We refuse to transfer Milutinovic... because under our laws he is protected by immunity and international law is not above our own," Djindjic was quoted as saying by the Tanjug news agency.
Hartmann said that the president's immunity "is of no value under the statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia."
Del Ponte was due to meet Djindjic later Tuesday before visiting the site of a mass grave outside Belgrade where remains thought to be those of ethnic Albanians killed in Kosovo in 1999 were uncovered.
The court's prosecutor was due to travel to the Bosnian city of Sarajevo later in the day -- BELGRADE (AFP)
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