SENSE INTERVIEW: Carla Del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor of the Tribunal (1)

In an exclusive interview for SENSE agency, the Chief Prosecutor speaks out for the first time about her "tracking team" which is trying to locate the fugitives from the Tribunal's arrest warrants

Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor in the TribunalCarla del Ponte, chief prosecutor in the Tribunal

“I had good reason to believe that Karadzic would be in The Hague very soon. In fact, I still have, and that's why I can't divulge any details, but when Karadzic is here, I will explain to you what we had done to get him," says Carla Del Ponte in the interview.

The Chief Prosecutor of the Tribunal is undaunted by the fact that her confident claims that Karadzic would be in The Hague before the end of June have not come true. The "good reason" she mentioned above were pieces of information she received from the SFOR headquarters in Sarajevo, from the Republika Srpska authorities in Banja Luka and from her "tracking team". For the first time, she discussed it publicly; but for obvious reasons, she will not, or cannot divulge everything.

“Our 'tracking team' is made up of special agents from various countries, specialized for intelligence work. They work in the field, establishing contacts with various "sources", gathering valuable information about the movements and whereabouts of the fugitives from our arrest warrants. We then relay the information to the international community and the local authorities, since we do not have the jurisdiction or equipment to arrest the fugitives ourselves. We have a good team and I have to say that many people down there in the Balkans are trying to help us get to the real, specific information about the current location of the accused."

Thanks to the information obtained by her "trackers", Del Ponte says, the international forces and the local authorities have located and arrested several fugitives in the past few years. For obvious reasons, she adds, the Office of the Prosecutor does not want to "claim credit", letting the local authorities and international forces to chalk up the arrest operations for themselves.

The information about the movements of the fugitives is "perishable goods", she says, and it is therefore of crucial important to react promptly. Del Ponte says that, regretfully, this is not always the case.

“Unfortunately, we often do not receive feedback information from those we notify about the whereabouts of the fugitives. Sometimes we also expect them to respond much more promptly to our information. Because if we, for instance, locate Karadzic in a certain place, in a certain house, and we relay the information to those who have to check it and arrest him, the response should be instantaneous, because the fugitive cannot be expected to remain in the same place 24 or 48 hours later."

Del Ponte confirms that in February the Office of the Prosecutor gave SFOR a precise location of a house in the village of Zaovina, near Visegrad, where, according to the information obtained by her tracking team, Karadzic was hiding. SFOR, however, did not respond at all, failing to even try to verify the information provided by "Carla's trackers" was correct. Just like, as Del Ponte notes, the authorities in Belgrade failed to respond to the information about the movements and hide-outs of Ratko Mladic, as she will explain in Part II of the interview.