Vatican accused of hiding Croat war crimes suspect

20.09.05 @ 09:55

  1. By Lucia Kubosova

The UN's chief prosecutor in The Hague has suggested Croat war crimes suspect general Ante Gotovina is hiding in one of the country's monasteries.

  • Carle del Ponte argues the Vatican could help to pinpoint in which Catholic monastery the fugitive general is hiding (Photo: European Commission)

She argues the Vatican could pinpoint his exact location within a few days, but has failed to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

Speaking in an interview with the UK's Daily Telegraph on Monday (19 September), Carla del Ponte indicated she had decided to come public with the information, after being "extremely disappointed" over the reluctance by the Roman Catholic Church to deal with the issue.

Mrs del Ponte said she had appealed to several top Vatican authorities, including the pope Benedict XVI, in a bid for greater cooperation, but has failed to receive any.

"I have information he (general Gotovina) is hiding in a Franciscan monastery and so the Catholic Church is protecting him. I have taken this up with the Vatican and the Vatican refuses totally to co-operate with us", she said in the interview.

The Vatican argues it has no international obligations towards the tribunal.

Mrs del Ponte has been pressing Zagreb for months on information on the whereabouts of the fugitive general.

Cooperation with the international court in The Hague, which is dealing with individuals accused of war crimes in ex-Yugoslavia, is one of the conditions for the EU opening membership talks with Zagreb.

Originally supposed to start in March, they were postponed after member states decided the Croatian authorities had not cooperated enough.

Zagreb has now promised the prosecutor to raid any monastery sheltering the general, but the Vatican is refusing to help find out which one it is.

"They said they have no intelligence and I don't believe that. I think that the Catholic Church has the most advanced intelligence services", she argued.

General Gotovina (49) is accused of being responsible for the killing of at least 150 Serb civilians and of being in charge of forced deportation of between 150,000 and 200,000 people in 1995.

He is still considered a national hero by many Croats, as the operation led to the re-establishment of Croatian control over the country's Krajina region.