Bosnia judge condemns West

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The Independent Online
A sombre and frustrated Judge Richard Goldstone, chief prosecutor of the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal on former Yugoslavia, has warned that Nato's failure to arrest the indicted Serb war criminals Radovan Karadjic and Ratko Mladic "could prove a fatal blow to this tribunal and to the future of international justice".

Speaking in his office in The Hague less than two weeks before he is due to step down as Chief Prosecutor, Mr Goldstone bitterly condemned what he called the West's "highly inappropriate and pusillanimous policy" of not apprehending the two indicted war criminals, who have been blamed for the mass murder of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim civilians in the UN "safe haven" of Srebrenica in July last year.

In an interview with The Independent as Bosnians prepared to go to the polls at the weekend, Mr Goldstone, the distinguished South African lawyer who for two years has led the UN prosecution into the most horrific war crimes perpetrated in Europe since the Second World War, spoke of his deep disappointment at the failure of Western leaders to order the arrest of the two wanted Serbs.

"They made absolutely clear to me . . . that they weren't prepared to put their soldiers at risk," he said. "I have been asked . . . how I would explain to a mother in Omaha, Nebraska, that her son was killed going to arrest a war criminal in Bosnia. I said I would explain it the same way as I would if her son was a member of the Omaha police force and got killed or injured going to arrest a serial murderer."

According to Mr Goldstone, his war crimes investigators have been told by members of the I-For forces in Bosnia that the soldiers "feel a tremendous frustration that they aren't able to go out and get these people". They would arrest Karadjic and Mladic "tomorrow", the judge said, if they were given the orders to do so. "My great fear is that if we don't get a substantial number of arrests of people we've indicted in the next month - I wouldn't like to put a figure on it, 12 months, 14 months, 18 months - I think it could be a fatal blow to this tribunal and to the future of international justice. It will show that international justice cannot work as we enter the 21st century, because there is no political will to make it work."

Judge Goldstone has issued 74 arrest warrants since the court began work in The Hague in 1994. Only seven of the accused are in custody.

The judge said the tribunal had been "failed by the politicians who've been responsible for what I regard as really a highly inappropriate and pusillanimous policy in relation to arrests. Looking at it from the point of view of the victims, I get feelings of a great injustice that's been done to them. I mean, here is the international community that for the first time ever sets up an international war crimes tribunal. The victims must . . . have felt some sort of positive feelings . . . the UN Security Council has given a stamp of approval and all countries are obliged to make arrests. And nothing happens!"

Nato forces in Bosnia have been ordered to arrest wanted war criminals if they see them - but not to seek them out or search for them. Mr Karadjic was reported last week to be visiting his elderly mother in Montenegro. General Mladic, chiefly responsible for the bloodbath in Srebrenica, is believed to be in his heavily guarded bunker in Serbian Bosnia.

Bosnian elections, page 8