Russia urges UN court closure after Karadzic arrest

2008-07-23 07:41:09 GMT       2008-07-23 15:41:09 (Beijing Time)

Serbian ally Russia urged the closure of a "biased" UN war crimes tribunal on Tuesday following the arrest of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, as lawmakers accused the court of playing politics.

Karadzic's trial should be "impartial," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement that also called for cases pending at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to be heard in countries in the region.

"We hope the inquiry and the trial of Karadzic will be impartial. We underline this since the ICTY has shown an often biased approach," the ministry said.

"We also reiterate the need to speed up moves to wrap up the activities of the ICTY and to hand over all unsolved cases to the investigative and judicial bodies of countries of the former Yugoslavia," the ministry statement said.

Countries in the region "are now fully mature and able to investigate independently and give out verdicts on war crimes," the statement added.

Serbian authorities on Monday said Karadzic, who is suspected of genocide and was one of the world's most wanted men, had been arrested after nearly 13 years on the run. He now faces extradition to the ICTY in The Hague.

The UN Security Council -- of which Russia is a permanent member -- has said the ICTY should end its activities by 2010 but it appears that this deadline will not be met because of pending cases.

Russia on Tuesday listed as examples of the court's bias the acquittal and freeing of Bosnians and Kosovo Albanians including former Kosovar prime minister Ramush Haradinaj "whose involvement in war crimes is without doubt."

Haradinaj, a former militia leader suspected of murder, torture and rape of Serbs and opponents, was acquitted by the ICTY earlier this year for lack of evidence in a trial at which several witnesses refused to testify.

The bias accusations fit with Russian support for Serbia in the international arena, including over Kosovo. Russia has also given political asylum to the widow and son of late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Karadzic's arrest evoked a chorus of protest among Russian politicians.

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said in a statement that Karadzic's arrest was an "unseemly step" and resulted from "every form of crude political, economic and media pressure put on Belgrade by the West."

Far-right leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky told ITAR-TASS that Karadzic is "a symbol of the Serbian liberation struggle," adding: "If Russia didn't have nuclear weapons, they would do the same to us. We have to be with the Serbs."

Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin reportedly said that Western officials responsible for deciding to bomb Yugoslavia in 1999 should also be charged alongside Karadzic.

"If the Karadzic case merits being considered in The Hague, then next to him in the dock should be those who took the decision to bomb entirely innocent people," Rogozin was quoted as saying in Brussels by Interfax.


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