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US, Russia at odds in pushing end for UN Tribunals
( 2003-12-23 09:46) (Agencies)

Britain proposed a resolution on Monday that would shut down U.N. tribunals on the Balkans and Rwanda by 2010 but U.S.- Russian differences have delayed adoption.

Russia's envoys, diplomats said, want to modify a provision insisting on U.N. trials for Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, indicted Bosnian Serb leaders blamed for killings of Muslims, as well as Croatian General Ante Gotovina, accused of ordering massacres against Croatian Serbs in 1995.

Compromise language would demand the three be prosecuted, without specifying the U.N. tribunal in The Hague on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. But U.S. envoys fear this might mean a perfunctory national trial and have referred the issue to Washington.

"We want clarity that Mladic, Karadzic, Gotovina, will be tried in The Hague, no matter what," a U.S. official said. But another Western envoy said Washington's objections could result "in throwing out a rather healthy baby with the bathwater."

The resolution repeats earlier demands that prosecutors and judges of the Yugoslav tribunal and the one based in Arusha, Tanzania, to try perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, complete investigations by 2004 and shut down by 2010.

But the draft calls for the surrender to The Hague court of Karadzic, believed to be in the Serb enclave of Bosnia, Mladic, thought to be in Serbia, and Gotovina, still in Croatia where he is considered a hero for battling the Yugoslav army.

The resolution also asks each tribunal to ensure any new indictments concentrate on "the most senior leaders" suspected of being responsible for heinous crimes.

But Richard Dicker, counsel for Human Rights Watch, questioned why the entire resolution was necessary, saying it bordered on jeopardizing the independence of the court.

"It puts additional and I would say improper pressure on an independent prosecutor and independent judges to implement the completion strategy already agreed to," he said.

Russia, which has close cultural ties to Belgrade, has been uneasy about the court, set up in the mid 1990s, for years. But others joined the controversy as costs rose.

Each of the courts are now budgeted at about $100 million a year. Nations are in arrears about $100 million, with Japan, the United States, Brazil, Russia and Spain owing the most.

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