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Yugoslavia: Maintain Pressure For War Crimes Cooperation

Western Aid Should Require More Than Promises

As European Union foreign ministers finalized plans for a June 29, 2001 donor conference for Yugoslavia, Human Rights Watch urged them to keep pressure on Belgrade to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. 
In recent days Serbian and Yugoslav authorities have committed to surrendering all indictees to the United Nations war crimes tribunal, but the government has yet to turn over one Yugoslav citizen, and its June 23 decree on cooperation with the tribunal has loopholes that could actually thwart justice, said Human Rights Watch.  
"We're still concerned about international donors prematurely disbursing hundreds of millions in economic aid to Yugoslavia," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program.  
Dicker said that if the European Union indeed convenes the June 29 donors' conference, it has a responsibility to link disbursement of aid to specific forms of cooperation, such as the arrest and surrender of indictees. If Belgrade fails to take these steps, the E.U. and other donors should halt any aid pledged at the donor conference, Dicker said.  
Yugoslav officials have been concerned that if they do not cooperate with the Hague tribunal, the donors' conference would not generate sufficient economic assistance for the financially strapped country. But the European Union has consistently failed to link the donors' conference with the arrest and surrender of indictees, Human Rights Watch said.  
Under heightened pressure as the donor conference nears, the Yugoslav cabinet adopted a decree on Saturday enabling the country to send the former president Slobodan Milosevic and other indictees in Yugoslavia to The Hague. The decree on cooperation does not, however, acknowledge Yugoslavia's overarching obligation to cooperate with the tribunal. The decree also gives Yugoslav courts the authority to decide whether the tribunal is abiding by its own rules, and it fails to clarify whether a Yugoslav court or the tribunal itself would have the final say when the tribunal asks the national court to let it take over a case.  
At the same time, however, Yugoslav deputy prime minister Miroljub Labus stated on Saturday that all indicted Yugoslav citizens have to be transferred to the tribunal, and Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic said that Milosevic should be in The Hague within fifteen to twenty days.  
"These commitments are welcome, but there's still little concrete evidence of cooperation," said Dicker. "We've seen how economic pressure has brought the government of Yugoslavia this far. The E.U. should not abandon this pressure at the eleventh hour, just when it is needed most."  

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