Balkans: Ex-chief UN war crimes prosecutor 'gagged'

Published on April 9, 2008, Adnkronos international

Category: Violence Against Christian Serbs and Their Holy Places

Belgrade, 8 April Belgrade, 8 April (AKI) – Swiss authorities banned former chief prosecutor at the UN's Hague-based Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, Carla del Ponte, from presenting on Tuesday her recently published autobiography in her hometown of Lugano, according to media reports.

The Swiss federal department of foreign affairs also banned Del Ponte (photo) from presenting the newly published Italian translation of her book 'The Hunt' to journalists and the public in a bookshop in the northern city of Milan on Monday.

"Carla del Ponte's book on her work as chief prosecutor of the Hague tribunal contains statements which are impermissible for a representative of the government of Switzerland," said department spokesman, Jean-Philippe Jeannerat.

"Any public presentation of this work is incompatible with the author's status of Swiss ambassador," the department said in a statement.

"We thank her [Del Ponte] for a rapid return to Argentina," the statement added.

Del Ponte stood down as chief prosecutor in January to become Switzerland's ambassador to Argentina.

The federal foreign affairs department banned Del Ponte from speaking or in any way publicising her autobiograpy.

In the book, she alleges she was obstructed in bringing war crimes suspects to trial at the Hague, during her eight years as chief prosecutor.

'The Hunt' also make the disturbing claim that the ethnic Albanian guerrillas from the Kosovo Liberation Army, in 1999 removed hundreds of kidneys and other organs from captured Serb civilians and trafficked these internationally.

Del Ponte alleges these captured Serb civilians were then left to die. But she claimed she was in no position to press charges or obtain sufficient evidence due to a lack of cooperation by the UN and Kosovo officials.

Swiss and Serbian commentators said Del Ponte's disclosures were embarrassing to the Berne government, because Switzerland was among the first countries that recognised Kosovo independence in February and opened an embassy in Pristina last week.

The Kosovo Liberation Army's veteran leader, Hashim Thaci, now Kosovo's prime minister, in the mid-1990s spent time in Switzerland, a centre for radical Albanian emigre circles, where he mysteriously acquired funds for the KLA.

Serbian press reported the organ scheme worth about four million euros was masterminded by Thaci. Kosovo leaders have however refuted the accusations as “Serb political propaganda”.

Serbian authorities last month objected to 'The Hunt's publication. They claimed it would make Belgrade’s cooperation with the Hague tribunal and the arrest of four remaining fugitive war crimes suspects more difficult and could harm the secret services.

Del Ponte has openly blamed western powers for obstructing the arrest of some fugitives and of using double standards in their approach.

She has in particular accused UN officials and local authorities in Kosovo of being uncooperative in investigating alleged crimes against Serb civilians during the ethnic Albanian rebellion in 1998-1999, which ultimately led to independence.

Last week the Hague tribunal acquitted former Kosovo prime minister and KLA leader Ramush Haradinaj of war crimes, causing a storm of protest in Belgrade.

Belgrade newspapers commented that Del Ponte’s revelations were a “late awakening” aimed at easing her conscience.

Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said however that Belgrade was initiating its own investigation.

“We are verifying the reports that in 1999 two truckloads of kidnapped Serbs were transported to Albania,” Vukcevic said. “We received these reports from the Hague,” he added.

According to press reports, the stolen organs were removed on at least two locations in a hidden prison camp in Albania and then trafficked to Italy and the West.

Del Ponte's book lists the dates and victims of the alleged organ removals. But Serbian officials and media said they were sceptical the mystery would be unravelled without substantial international help.

Related Articles: