The Tribunal's Chief Prosecutor holds talks in Brussels with the North Atlantic Council and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs. The failure to arrest war crimes indictees is the "most significant obstacle" to the Tribunal's completion strategy and a "disgrace" for the authorities of the countries harboring them. Will the Vukovar Three - three former JNA officers - be tried in Croatia?

Carla Del PonteCarla Del Ponte

Of the 21 fugitives sought by The Hague Tribunal and Interpol, 15 are in Serbia, two in Croatia, one in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and three in Russia. This is what the Tribunal's Chief Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, stated today before the North Atlantic Council, adding that she had contacted Russian authorities and had received a response from them recently indicating they "had not been able to locate them so far."

Their continued freedom in the face of international justice, in Del Ponte's opinion, is "the most significant obstacle" for the Tribunal's completion strategy, while at the same time a "disgrace for all those who have the responsibility to arrest them"--principally the authorities in the countries harboring them.

Serbia and Montenegro, Del Ponte notes, "has become a safe haven" for fugitives from the Tribunal. In addition to the inevitable Ratko Mladic, the Chief Prosecutor mentioned as the fugitives in Serbia: Pavkovic, Lukic and Lazarevic - "three of the four generals" accused of crimes against humanity in Kosovo - and, among others, four police and Republica Srpska army officers charged with the Srebrenica genocide.

As far as Croatia is concerned, in addition to the inevitable Gotovina, Del Ponte mentioned Miroslav Bralo, indicted as early as1995 in a sealed indictment charging him with murder and rape in Central Bosnia. Del Ponte revealed today that OTP investigators located Bralo in Croatia this spring and notified Zagreb authorities. But for reasons that "remain unclear," they did not arrest him immediately and he disappeared again.

Del Ponte did not spare her hosts either - the permanent representatives of NATO member-States - noting that in the past year and a half, SFOR has failed to carry out any arrests. This is, she said, in "sharp contrast" with the previous "very successful" years, when SFOR arrested and handed over to the Tribunal 29 indictees. Del Ponte is "deeply disappointed" by the fact that SFOR will leave Bosnia and Herzegovina having failed to arrest Radovan Karadzic, who "even manages to publish books that become best-sellers in Serbia."

In addition to the permanent representatives of NATO member-States, Del Ponte met in Brussels today with Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs. According to a source from Solana's office, "everyone agrees that the authorities of the states in which the accused are bear the main responsibility for their arrests, and the European Union will give them all the necessary assistance." It will also continue to make "full and complete cooperation with the Tribunal" a prerequisite for the accession of those countries to European institutions.

During a brief press conference, reporters tried to check with Carla del Ponte whether there was any truth to reports published in the Croatian media that the Vukovar Three case (involving three former JNA officers accused of the Ovcara massacre) could be referred to the Croatian courts.

"Maybe yes," Del Ponte replied.