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Saturday, August 14, 1999 Published at 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK


Profile: Carla del Ponte

Investigations into war crimes will be a harrowing and arduous task

The United Nations' new chief war crime prosecutor is a woman with a tough, crusading reputation.

Carla del Ponte, the Swiss attorney general, will need all those qualities as she pursues those accused of war crimes in the Balkans and in Rwanda.

She has already pledged to continue efforts to secure fresh arrest warrants for those suspected of atrocities in both regions.

She has also vowed to give special attention to cases of violence against women and children.

[ image: Ms del Ponte was UN secretary general Kofi Annan's choice to succeed Louise Arbour]
Ms del Ponte was UN secretary general Kofi Annan's choice to succeed Louise Arbour
Ms del Ponte, who comes from Switzerland's Italian-speaking region of Ticino, became attorney general in 1994.

High-profile cases that she has handled have included investigations into the brother of the Mexican president for money laundering, and pursuing allegations of corruption in the Kremlin.

She was also responsible for the inquiry into the killing of Swiss tourists at the Luxor temple in Egypt in 1997.

Difficult obstacles

Ms del Ponte will move to her new role, in which she succeeds Canadian Louise Arbour, next month.

Speaking after her appointment was confirmed in Geneva, she said she estimated that ongoing investigations by the tribunals in The Hague and in Arusha could take between five and six years to complete.

[ image: Louise Arbour was said to be feeling the strain of the high pressure job]
Louise Arbour was said to be feeling the strain of the high pressure job
She said the most difficult part of her new job would be to ensure that suspects were arrested and brought before the tribunals.

Ms del Ponte has refused to answer specific questions about the case of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was indicted for crimes against humanity by the tribunal in The Hague in May.

Balkan visit

"I have no idea how many indictments or how many dossiers I will find in The Hague," Ms del Ponte said.

"Let me get to The Hague, let me see the Milosevic dossier, and we'll see what we can do."

Ms del Ponte plans to meet Mrs Arbour in The Hague next week, and says she also plans to visit the Balkans and Rwanda soon.

'Feeling the strain'

Mrs Arbour, a criminal law specialist and veteran judge from Ontario, is leaving to join Canada's Supreme Court.

She was said by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien to be feeling the strain of the Hague-based tribunal job and missing her family in Canada.

'Courage and independence'

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who nominated Ms del Ponte to be Mrs Arbour's successor, said: "I am really happy that somebody with Ms del Ponte's experience, courage, independence and legal professionalism is taking over this task."

The Hague tribunal has issued 65 public indictments for alleged atrocities in the former Yugoslavia.

The Arusha court has indicted 48 suspects in connection with the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which at least 800,000 people were slaughtered.

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