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Milosevic's transfer welcomed by Hague tribunal, UN mission chiefs in region

Milosevic's transfer welcomed by Hague tribunal, UN mission chiefs in region

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) today welcomed the decision of the Belgrade authorities to transfer Slobodan Milosevic to the Tribunal for trial.

In a statement issued today in The Hague, the United Nations Tribunal said Mr. Milosevic had arrived in its Detention Unit during the early morning hours. The date and time for his initial appearance , at which he will be asked to enter a plea to the charges against him, will be scheduled and announced in due course.

Echoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reaction to the move yesterday, the ICTY Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, called it "an important milestone for international criminal justice." She emphasized, however, that the transfer itself did not represent the end of the process. On the contrary, it was only the beginning of the criminal proceedings and a great deal of work now had to be done to bring the case to a just conclusion. She also acknowledged the contribution made by Member States who supported and facilitated the transfer.

The President of the Tribunal, Judge Claude Jorda, said that Mr. Milosevic's transfer to the Tribunal was "a turning point and the beginning of a new era" in the development of international criminal justice. "The forthcoming trial of a former Head of State is a new and irreversible step in relation to the international community's resolve to fight against impunity," he said.

In Pristina, Hans Haekkerup, the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said that "for more than a decade, the horrible acts of Mr. Milosevic and his collaborators have spread immense suffering in this region."

One of the greatest impediments to reconciliation has been the fact that those who held positions of responsibility while the tragedy unfolded have not answered for what happened, he said. "The population of Kosovo, along with others in the Balkans, need to see that justice is served in order to begin to reconcile one another."

For his part, the head of the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) joined those who welcomed Mr. Milosevic's transfer to the Tribunal, but said that it was only the beginning. "With the anniversary of the appalling events in Srebrenica to be commemorated in just two weeks' time, we must never forget that there are many criminals who have yet to be brought before the court and many crimes that have yet to be fully investigated," he said.