Deputy for the dead closes in: Leonard Doyle profiles the UN lawyer who is pursuing those suspected of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia

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The Independent Online
SUCCESSFUL war-crimes prosecutions arising from the conflict in Yugoslavia appear more likely with the arrival in The Hague, the Netherlands, of an experienced prosecutor who has spent the last eight years heading Australia's Nazi war-crimes unit.

Graham Thomas Blewitt, 47, the United Nations acting deputy prosecutor, is now running the first international war- crimes tribunal to have been established since the Nuremberg and Tokyo war trials set up after the Second World War. Mr Blewitt has become the de facto head of the tribunal since the sudden departure of the first prosecutor, Raman Escovar-Salom, Venezuela's Attorney-General.

He is expected to bring the same grit and determination to the war-crimes tribunal as he did to the tracking down and investigation of dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals in Australia. A team of 40 lawyers and investigators are being hired to gather and sift through the evidence of atrocities before seeking indictments. The cases will then be put to 11 distinguished jurists for trial.

While running the Australian unit, Mr Blewitt went to Ukraine for the exhumation of human remains from three Second World War mass- graves. With the help of archaeological and forensic science experts he uncovered important evidence which corroborated eyewitness testimony, nearly 50 years after the event. 'I have every determination that this (tribunal) process is going to be successful in getting convictions,' he said in his first interview since arriving in the The Hague.

'It is clear that there were systematic war crimes, including rape on a wide scale which was used as a weapon of war.'

Mr Blewitt intends to focus the work of the tribunal on getting indictments of those who ordered mass killings at two sites in Croatia, one in Ovcarra, the other in Vukovar at the beginning of the war. Investigators will also look at abuses in detention centres, where survivors have testified that the detainees were subjected to systematic torture, murder and rape, mostly at the hands of Serbian jailers.

Mr Blewitt is also determined to bring to justice those who carried out and ordered the bombardment of civilians in Sarajevo and other cities and to pin charges on those responsible for the recent marketplace bombing.

'There is no doubt in my mind but that each side in the conflict is guilty of war crimes,' Mr Blewitt said. 'What we intend to do is to focus on the individuals who have committed or ordered such crimes.'

If as seems likely, the Serb, Croat or Muslim authorities refuse to hand over suspects who have been indicted by the panel of judges, Mr Blewitt will turn to the Security Council. 'It can impose sanctions or take further punitive steps to see to it that the tribunal is respected,' he said.