Resolute lawyer takes on killers of Racak

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The Independent Online
COMETH THE hour, cometh the woman. Beyond argument the massacre at Racak is a watershed, perhaps the beginning of the endgame, in Kosovo. And despite yesterday's setback on the Macedonian border, Louise Arbour will not flinch from the central role in the crisis fate has thrust upon her.

After a 28-year career that has taken her from law student to feminist and civil rights campaigner to advocate at the Quebec Bar, and now to chief prosecutor at the UN International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, she faces her most daunting challenge - direct confrontation with Slobodan Milosevic. And in her the Yugoslav President may meet an adversary as unbending as he is. She is, one admiring Nato diplomat says, "a formidable lady".

In the two years she has headed the special tribunals investigating atrocities in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, she has secured arrests and convictions. She has perfected the technique of issuing secret lists of indictments alongside public ones, permitting Nato soldiers to arrest suspects not realising they too were wanted on war crimes charges.

Nor is she content to capture the minnows while the big fish slip away. Take Radovan Karadzic, the former President of the Bosnian Serbs, who is still at large. Be patient, she told the French newspaper Liberation yesterday. "Like the others, his time will come... either he'll be arrested by Nato troops, or the present Bosnian Serb leaders will decide they're better off handing over wanted criminals. Sooner or later it's inevitable."

Since 1993 President Milosevic has refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the tribunal over Kosovo. But, she says, the court's statute is clear. "Our strategy is to get to the highest level of responsibility. Milosevic and [Croatian President Franjo] Tudjman know they would be liable. The only thing which matters is the proof, that they were directly responsible."