By William Blum
07/06/08 "ICH" — -
I'm reminded of Carla Del Ponte, the Swiss diplomat who in 1999 became Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, located in The Hague, Netherlands. In accordance with her official duties, she looked into possible war crimes of all the participants in the conflicts of the 1990s surrounding the breakup of Yugoslavia and the NATO (read the United States) 78-day bombing of Serbia and its province of Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians were trying to secede. In late December 1999, in an interview with The Observer of London, Del Ponte was asked if she was prepared to press criminal charges against NATO personnel (and not just against the former Yugoslav republics). She replied: "If I am not willing to do that, I am not in the right place. I must give up my mission."
The Tribunal then announced that it had completed a study of possible NATO crimes, declaring: "It is very important for this tribunal to assert its authority over any and all authorities to the armed conflict within the former Yugoslavia."
Was this a sign from heaven that the new millennium (2000 was but a week away) was going to be one of more equal international justice? Could this really be?
No, it couldn't. From official quarters, military and civilian, of the United States and Canada, came disbelief, shock, anger, denials ... "appalling" ... "unjustified". Del Ponte got the message. Her office quickly issued a statement: "NATO is not under investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. There is no formal inquiry into the actions of NATO during the conflict in Kosovo."
Del Ponte remained in her position until the end of 2007, leaving to become the Swiss ambassador to Argentina; at the same time writing a book about her time with the Tribunal — "The Hunt: Me and War Criminals", published two months ago but available at the moment only in Italian. It hasn't been much reported yet what del Ponte has said about NATO, but the book has already created a scandal in Europe, for in it she reveals how the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) abducted hundreds of Serbs in 1999, and took them to Kosovo's fellow Muslims in Albania where they were killed, their kidneys and other body parts then removed and sold for transplant in other countries.
The KLA for years has been engaging in other equally charming activities, such as heavy trafficking in drugs, trafficking in women, various acts of terrorism, and carrying out ethnic cleansing of Serbs who have had the bad fortune to be in Kosovo because it's long been their home. Between 1998 and 2002, the KLA appeared at times on the State Department terrorism list; at first because of its tactic of targeting innocent Serb civilians in order to provoke retaliation from Serbian troops; later because Mujahadeen mercenaries from various Islamic countries, including some tied to al Qaeda, were fighting alongside the KLA, as they were in Bosnia with the Bosnian Muslims during the 1990s Yugoslav civil wars. The KLA remained on the terrorist list until the US decided to make them an ally, in some measure due to the existence of a major American military base in Kosovo, Camp Bondsteel. (It's remarkable, is it not, how these bases pop up all around the world?) In November 2005, following a visit there, Alvaro Gil-Robles, the human rights envoy of the Council of Europe, described the camp as a "smaller version of Guantanamo", referring to the detainees there at the time from Washington's various wars, including the so-called War on Terror.
On February 17 of this year, in a move of highly questionable international legality, the KLA declared the independence of Kosovo from Serbia. The next day the United States recognized this new "nation", thus affirming the unilateral declaration of independence of a part of another country's territory. The new country has as its prime minister a gentleman named Hashim Thaci, described in Del Ponte's book as the brain behind the abductions of Serbs and the sale of their organs. The new gangster state of Kosovo is supported by Washington and other Western powers who can't forgive Serbia-Yugoslavia-Milosevic — "the last communists of Europe" — for not wanting to wholeheartedly embrace the NATO/US/European Union triumvirate, which recognizes no higher power, United Nations or other. The independent state of Kosovo is regarded as reliably pro-west, a state that will serve as a militarized outpost for the triumvirate, which is intent on further encircling Russia and pushing it out of Europe.
In her book, Del Ponte asserts that there was sufficient evidence for prosecution of Kosovo Albanians involved in war crimes, but the investigation "was nipped in the bud", focusing instead on "the crimes committed by Serbia." She claims that she could do nothing because it was next to impossible to collect evidence in Kosovo, which was swarming with criminals, in and out of the government. Witnesses were intimidated, and even judges in The Hague were afraid of the Kosovo Albanians.
In April, the Swiss Foreign Department issued a statement that Del Ponte's book "contains statements which are impermissible for a representative of the government of Switzerland", ordered her to return to her ambassadorial post in Argentina, and prohibited any further appearances promoting her book. The Swiss have officially recognized the independence of Kosovo and established an embassy in the country. Kosovo appears likely to remain a highly controversial issue in Europe and Washington for some time to come.