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Del Ponte sets deadline for Serbia to apprehend war crimes suspect Mladic

[JURIST] International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte [official profile] said Thursday she will work to block a formal signing of the European Union's pre-membership deal with Serbia if the country does not apprehend fugitive former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and turn him over to The Hague by December 10. The EU has made Serbia's cooperation with the ICTY a key element of its membership negotiations. In related news, Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic [official website] was quoted in an article [text, in English] published by Serbian newspaper Blic [media website] Thursday as saying he believes Mladic is likely hiding in Serbia, though his current whereabouts are unknown. Vukcevic told the newspaper it is unlikely Mladic will be turned over to the ICTY, which originally indicted him on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity [ICTY case backgrounder] in 1995, before Del Ponte steps down at the end of this year. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

Del Ponte has long criticized Serbia for its seeming reluctance to cooperate with the ICTY and said in October that Serbia must do more to apprehend fugitive war crimes suspects [JURIST report] before she could give a positive report on the country's work with the ICTY to the European Union. She earlier chided Serbian authorities [JURIST report] for failing to bring to justice Mladic, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY case backgrounder], former Croatian Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic [JURIST report], and Bosnian Serb police commander Stojan Zupljanin [ICTY indictment], saying that Serbia's cooperation with the tribunal is "still too slow and not yet sufficient." Serbia said in September it would increase efforts [JURIST report] to locate and arrest the four war crimes suspects believed to be hiding in the country in order to receive a favorable report from Del Ponte at her meeting with EU officials concerning the EU's pending pre-membership deal with the country.

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