UN prosecutor sparks fury with claim Vatican is hiding alleged war criminal

Ms Del Ponte provoked anger in Rome and Zagreb when she said that Ante Gotovina, a former general indicted for war crimes, is hiding in a monastery in Croatia.

Her comments come at a sensitive time, since Croatia's bid to start EU membership talks will be re-examined in the next few weeks. Zagreb's ambitions have been put on hold until the authorities there are deemed to be giving full co-operation to the UN's war crimes tribunal.

While Ms Del Ponte highlighted the responsibility of the Church, rather than the state, for shielding Mr Gotovina, her comments also contradict the Croatian government's claims that the general is not on its soil.

Instead Ms Del Ponte told The Daily Telegraph she has information that he "is hiding in a Franciscan monastery and so the Catholic Church is protecting him. I have taken this up with the Vatican and the Vatican refuses totally to co-operate with us."

She added that the Vatican could probably pinpoint exactly which of Croatia's 80 monasteries was sheltering him "in a few days".

A Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's foreign minister, asked Ms Del Ponte for evidence of Mr Gotovina's whereabouts, but that she never provided more information. He added that the chief prosecutor was trying, improperly, to use the Vatican as an enforcement tool.

Anton Suljic, spokesman for the Croatian Bishops' Conference, said the leadership of the Catholic Church in Croatia "has no information whatsoever or indications concerning the whereabouts of the runaway general Gotovina".

The Croatian Prime Minister, Ivo Sanader, reiterated his insistence that "based on all the information we're getting, Gotovina is not in Croatia".

But Ms Del Ponte's spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, said: "We are asking for full co-operation from every segment of society: the Church, the military, the politicians. Every segment of society is obliged to respect the law. No one is above the law and we are asking for co-operation from everyone." General Gotovina is alleged to have arranged the killing of at least 150 Serb civilians and the expulsion of 150,000 others during an operation against the Krajina Serbs in 1995. But many in Croatia regard him as a hero.

Meanwhile, fears that nationalists had begun a terrorist campaign to destabilise Zagreb's EU membership bid were calmed yesterday when Croatian police arrested a man suspected of causing a blast at the British embassy in Zagreb on Monday.

The Internal Affairs Minister, Damir Kirin, said the suspect, Damir Rovisan, 28, was a local employee and that the device exploded as he tried to smuggle it into the embassy via the mail room. He said it was a "criminal" act, rather than an act of "terrorism".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there