War crimes tribunal 'lacks money and manpower'

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The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal lacks money and manpower to finish its job before its UN mandate runs out, its chief prosecutor said on Wednesday

Carla Del Ponte said budget constraints had also quashed plans to hire special detectives to track down fugitives like the former Bosnian leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, believed to be hiding in Bosnia and Yugoslavia with the help of the military and the local population.

Ms Del Ponte's complaint comes at a crucial time for the tribunal, as it prepares the trial of the former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, and narrows its focus on the top Balkans leadership during the upheavals after the breakup of Yugoslavia after 1991.

Serb authorities handed Mr Milosevic over to the tribunal in June to faces charges of persecution and murder of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999. Ms Del Ponte said she will soon expand the Kosovo indictment to include more charges based on evidence from recently discovered mass graves.

Mr Milosevic is due to make his third appearance before a judge on 29 October, when he will also be asked to enter a plea to a second indictment accusing him of war crimes in Croatia.

A third indictment for crimes in Bosnia, including a charge of genocide, is being prepared against Mr Milosevic, Ms Del Ponte said. His trial, due to begin next year, will last at least 18 months or two years.

"We have a problem in achieving our programme because we need more resources and more people," she said.

Without additional funding, the tribunal must trim its list of suspects to be investigated and hand over the task of prosecuting more alleged war criminals to national authorities, where partisanship is high and justice uncertain.

"Justice must be achieved against all perpetrators," she said, although she admitted she already has dropped plans to prosecute lower-level suspects.

In 1999, the tribunal set a goal of bringing as many as 250 suspected war criminals to The Hague for trial. So far, about100 have been indicted. Of those, 38 are at large.

The tribunal, which was created in 1993, was supposed to disband by 2008, which means it must wind up its investigations within three years to allow time for the trials to be completed by that deadline.

The tribunal's annual budget is about $100m (£69m). It has sought an additional $37m over the next two years, and another 60 people to bolster its staff of about 500. (AP)

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