UN sets up war crimes inquiry

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The Independent Online
GENEVA - The United Nations' highest human rights body issued a fierce condemnation of rights abuses in the former Yugoslavia yesterday and agreed to send a 'special rapporteur' to sort out fact from fiction in the conflict.

Wrapping up an unprecedented emergency session called by the United States, the UN Human Rights Commission adopted by consensus a resolution expressing its disgust at 'ethnic cleansing' and other rights violations. But despite the wishes of some Islamic states on the 53-nation Commission, it did not directly blame the Serb-led rump Yugoslavia for the violations.

The special rapporteur was named as Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the former Polish prime minister, a Catholic journalist who was jailed by the Communists in Poland for a year for working with the Solidarity trade union.

The Commission said in its resolution that it was 'appalled' at reports of widespread violations 'including summary and arbitrary executions, enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment . . .' It expressed its 'particular abhorrence at the concept and practice of ethnic cleansing', under which Serbs are accused of creating all-Serb regions by driving out people of other ethnic backgrounds.

Delegates from the rump Yugoslavia, grudgingly allowed to participate in the meeting, said that in the interest of peace they did not want to 'disturb the consensus' and asked only for even-handed treatment by the rapporteur.

Mr Mazowiecki will have two weeks to visit former Yugoslavia and sift through the allegations and counter-allegations from the various factions before producing a preliminary report by 28 August, the last day of a London peace conference on Yugoslavia.

Under the terms of the resolution, he must make recommendations for halting violations of human rights. His report will be submitted to the commission, its members and to the UN General Assembly. Unusually, and despite some objections, it will also go to the UN Security Council.

Croatia and the rump state of Yugoslavia exchanged 1,131 prisoners yesterday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said. It said the liberation of the prisoners, taken in fighting last year and early this year, was carried out under Red Cross supervision at Nemetin, a city close to the Croatian city of Osijek.