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Yugoslavia: Leaders Welcome Milosevic Transfer To The Hague

Prague, 29 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Leaders in the Balkans and from around the world have welcomed Serbia's transfer of Slobodan Milosevic to the United Nations war crimes tribunal at The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity. Croatian President Stipe Mesic voiced satisfaction over the handover, saying Milosevic was "the main culprit" responsible for the suffering and wars of the Balkans in the 1990s.

Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija called the transfer a decisive step in the destruction of the plan to build ethnically pure states.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the handover of Milosevic marked a victory of accountability over impunity.

"I think what has happened today, which few thought was possible -- here we see one of the most powerful men in the Balkans today in the hands of the court at The Hague -- should go to show all leaders who are bound to abuse their power that in today's world, their peoples and the international community will demand accountability and will ensure that impunity is not allowed to stand."

U.S. President George W. Bush and the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, the European Union, and NATO also welcomed Milosevic's extradition, as did the human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The chief prosecutor of the UN tribunal, Carla Del Ponte, called Milosevic's extradition an "important milestone for international criminal justice."

Del Ponte, however, said the transfer marks only the beginning of a lengthy legal process, and that much work still needs to be done to bring Milosevic's case to justice.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica called the Serbian government's decision to extradite Milosevic to the war crimes tribunal illegal and unconstitutional.

Kostunica said the transfer could be interpreted as seriously jeopardizing Yugoslavia's constitutional order.