Pressure Mounts on Yugoslavia to Hand over Milosevic

Published April 2nd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

International pressure mounted on Yugoslavia on Monday to hand over its former president Slobodan Milosevic to face trial on war crimes charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.  

As Milosevic spent his second day in Belgrade's central jail, the court's chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said she expected Milosevic to be handed over by the end of the year and that the list of charges against him was set to be extended. 

In Nairobi where he was attending an international meeting, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described the arrest on Sunday as "an important step in the process of healing" after a series of wars in the Balkans since 1991. 

Annan urged Belgrade to "immediately discuss with the tribunal" ways of extending cooperation, suggesting that the tranfer of Milosevic should follow his arrest. 

The international court has indicted Milosevic on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes over his role in the 1999 conflict in the Serbian province of Kosovo.  

The court maintains that Milosevic should be tried in The Hague but Belgrade argues that he should face justice before a court in his home country. 

Milosevic was questioned by a magistrate for the first time on Sunday after finally giving himself up to police following an armed stand-off at his luxury villa. 

In Berlin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he expected Milosevic to be extradited in due course to face trial. 

Yugoslavia must be given time in the short-term "to do what it thinks is right," he said Monday in Berlin. 

But "in the medium term" Milosevic must be extradited since he is accused of war crimes "and that is the domain of the international criminal court in The Hague." 

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Milosevic's arrest is "the first step on the road that leads to the international tribunal in The Hague."  

US President George W. Bush also described the arrest by Belgrade as the "first step" in bringing him to trial for "crimes against humanity."  

"I am confident that Yugoslavia will continue down the path of cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal," Bush said in a statement issued Sunday from the Camp David presidential retreat.  

In Strasbourg the Council of Europe, a pan-European human rights body which Belgrade wants to join, said it would be a "travesty of justice" if Milosevic was just tried at home on the charges of abuse of power and corruption. 

"His arrest is good news, provided that it will lead to his extradition to the ICTY," said the organisation in a statement. 

Japan also called for him to be sent to the Hague. 

"I highly approve of the efforts of the Yugoslav government. We strongly expect the government to enhance cooperation with ICTY from now on," Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said in a statement. 

In Yugoslavia's neighbour Romania, President Ion Iliescu said Milosevic's arrest would allow Belgrade "to come back to the heart of international political life." – PARIS (AFP) 

 

 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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