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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 17:03 GMT
Ethnic Albanians face war crimes probes
Bus wreckage after attack blamed on ethnic Albanians
Attacks on Serbs include February's bus bombing in Kosovo
Ethnic Albanians are under investigation by United Nations war crimes prosecutors over alleged abuses of Serbs, it has been revealed.

UN chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte said two inquiries were already under way - one into alleged crimes in Kosovo, the other into attacks by a rebel group fighting outside Kosovo's borders in southern Serbia.

A separate inquiry into the activities of the Kosovo Liberation Army had already been announced last year.

Carla del Ponte
Carla del Ponte: Progress in talks in Belgrade
UN prosecutors will look into allegations of crimes committed against Serbs and other minorities following the expulsion by Nato of the Yugoslav army and Serb paramilitaries from Kosovo in June 1999.

The announcement comes amid expressions of optimism from UN war crimes officials about future co-operation with the Yugoslav authorities and more suspects being handed over by Belgrade.

A list of potential witnesses for the new investigations - complete with their telephone numbers - has been handed to the UN by justice ministers of Serbia and Yugoslavia.

Ms del Ponte said Kosovo had been classified as an area of international conflict from the date of Nato's intervention, which meant the Geneva Convention's rules of war applied, and the tribunal had jurisdiction.

Presevo rebels

The second inquiry will look at the activities of the ethnic Albanian rebel group fighting in southern Serbia - the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (UCPMB).

Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic: Prosecutors want him extradited
Ethnic Albanian rebels in and around Kosovo have been blamed for a number of attacks on Serb civilians, including the bombing in February of a Serb bus convoy in Kosovo, in which at least 10 people were killed.

The two new inquiries were announced at a news conference held with the Yugoslav Justice Minister, Momcilo Grubac and the Serb Justice Minister, Vladan Batic, who are on a two-day visit to The Hague.

Ms del Ponte, who is still seeking the extradition of some of the most significant war crimes suspects, including ex-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, said her meetings with the delegation had been "most fruitful".

"Serious work has been done in Belgrade on the draft law for the implementation of co-operation," she said.

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See also:

14 Jan 01 | Europe
War crimes tribunal may probe DU
14 Jan 00 | Europe
Analysis: Big fish still at large
20 Mar 01 | Europe
Yugoslavia pledge on war crimes
23 Feb 01 | Europe
Tension mounts in Presevo valley
16 Feb 01 | Europe
Serbs die in Kosovo bus blast
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