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Tuesday, May 11, 1999 Published at 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK

World: Europe

No deal on Kosovo war crimes

Refugees leaving Kosovo have countless tales of terror

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic cannot expect a deal to exempt him from possible war crimes charges, according to the UN war crimes prosecutor, Louise Arbour.

Kosovo: Special Report
Judge Arbour, Chief Prosecutor for the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, said there could be no legally-binding deal exonerating anyone from charges if their responsibility was established.

She told a news conference that not even signing a peace deal could lead to exemption.

Judge Arbour has been lobbying to ensure her office receives support for investigating alleged war crimes in Kosovo once the international community has a presence in the province.

Early access

She has previously come under pressure to indict Mr Milosevic and she says the possibility of bringing political and military leaders to trial has not been excluded.

Correspondent Jim Fish in Skopje: "Many will escape justice"
Judge Arbour said: "We will direct our efforts up the chain of command to find the highest level of responsibility.

"The international community did not set up this kind of forum to bring to account low-level perpetrators."

But she admitted that establishing the responsibility of leaders suspected of war crimes was one of the tribunal's most difficult tasks.

Judge Arbour said early access was vital to obtaining evidence and that the war crimes tribunal has called for political and military support.

"We have extensive accounts from refugees and we will want to conduct forensic operations," she said.

"It will be critically urgent for us to identify any sites where excavation may need to be conducted. It will be critical to secure these sites to avoid tampering."

But BBC correspondent Jim Fish says there will be disappointment among Kosovo refugees that many of those who carried out atrocities will escape justice by remaining beyond the reach or resources of the Hague tribunal.

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