SENSE INTERVIEW: Carla del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor of the Tribunal (2)

The Chief Prosecutor describes how, in her view, the most wanted fugitives from international justice live. Del Ponte, at least for the time being, trusts the authorities in Banja Luka more than the ones in Belgrade

Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the TribunalCarla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the Tribunal

Unlike Saddam Hussein, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic "are not hiding in holes – they live in normal, comfortable houses," says Carla del Ponte. While "Mladic is not taking any special precautions, since he knows that no one will arrest him, Karadzic is much more mobile and never remains in one location for more than two or three days," adds the Chief Prosecutor of the Tribunal in an interview for Fugitives, a documentary produced by SENSE agency. The film is made to mark the ninth anniversary of their successful flight from international justice.

Again unlike Saddam Hussein, who was given away by one of his bodyguards, Karadzic and Mladic, in Del Ponte's view, run no risk of being "sold" since they are considered heroes in the area where they live. This provides an explanation for the fact that no one has been enticed by the 5 million dollars offered for information leading to their arrest. Foreign "bounty hunters" who might try to snatch them, Del Ponte thinks, "would not stand a chance, since they would be detected and identified as foreigners as soon as they would approach the area where the fugitives are hiding."

According to the Chief Prosecutor, "large-scale military operations" involving a large number of soldiers, helicopters and armored vehicles "would not be appropriate" for the arrest of Karadzic, because such forces cannot be moved from the barracks unnoticed. In her opinion, "a well-planned police operation" carried out by the local police force, would stand a much better chance of success:

“I think that the local police is much better equipped to do it than the international police force. Intelligence work is not enough, it is but the first step towards the arrest of the fugitives. The police must be able to move freely, without attracting any undue attention and cause alarm which would endanger the operation. So, this can be done if the local authorities make a move.”

Del Ponte believes that the Republika Srpska authorities will finally make a move under the pressure of the international community and will take measures to arrest Karadzic and other fugitives. She says she "believes [the authorities in Banja Luka] when they say that they do not want to remain hostages of Radovan Karadzic before the international community forever."

The impression is that at this time the Chief Prosecutor does not have the same degree of trust in the authorities in Belgrade. In the past few years, she was giving them precise information about the location of Ratko Mladic. The last time she gave the competent authorities in Belgrade information about this was last October; only to learn quite recently, as she says, that the information was immediately relayed to Mladic who promptly "disappeared".

Del Ponte claims that she has "new information about Mladic's whereabouts", but does not know to whom she would forward it. "I am still pondering what to do, because it makes no sense to forward the information to Belgrade unless I am certain that they are willing to arrest Mladic," the Chief Prosecutor concluded in her interview with the SENSE agency.