20 September 2005

Vatican Accused of Hiding War Criminals...

What a contrast, coming on the same day as Wiesenthal's death...


War Crimes Chief Accuses Vatican
The Vatican is helping Croatia's most wanted war crimes suspect evade capture, a top UN prosecutor alleges.

Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, has said she believes Gen Ante Gotovina is hiding in a monastery in Croatia.

Ms del Ponte's spokeswoman told the BBC News website that the Vatican had refused to help in the search for him, despite being in a position to do so.

A spokesman for the Croatian Catholic Church rejected the charges.

The Vatican said it was preparing a statement.

Gen Gotovina has been charged with the deaths of 150 Serb civilians in 1995.

Earlier this year, the European Union cited Zagreb's failure to arrest him as the reason behind delaying talks on Croatia's entry into the bloc.

Forces under Gen Gotovina's command are accused of killing scores of Serbs and expelling up to 200,000 from the Krajina region, now part of Croatia.

Many in Croatia regard him as a national hero.

Croatian authorities have insisted they are doing everything in their power to deliver Gen Gotovina to the UN's war crimes tribunal in the Hague.

The Croatian Bishops' Conference, which heads the Croatian Roman Catholic Church, dismissed Ms del Ponte's allegations.

Its spokesman Antun Suljic said the conference "has no knowledge or indications of the whereabouts" of Gen Gotovina.

Vatican 'refusal'

Ms del Ponte wrote to Pope Benedict XVI in July this year in an effort to secure the Vatican's co-operation, her spokeswoman told the BBC News website.

The Pope has yet to reply to the prosecutor's request for a meeting, the spokeswoman said.

Ms del Ponte earlier told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph she believed Gen Gotovina was "hiding in a Franciscan monastery and so the Catholic Church is protecting him".

"I have taken this up with the Vatican and the Vatican totally refuses to co-operate with us," she said.

She is quoted as saying the Vatican's Foreign Minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, told her it did not know of Gen Gotovina's whereabouts and was not obliged to help her.

The BBC News website contacted Archbishop Lajolo's private secretary, who refused to comment.

Ms del Ponte's spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, told the BBC News website that "the law applies to everyone, including the Vatican".

She said UN prosecutors faced similar difficulties in tracking down the Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, who is thought to have sought refuge among Orthodox Christian monks in Montenegro.

"We're fully ecumenical," she said.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/09/20 13:32:47 GMT



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