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UN prosecutor accuses Vatican of hiding Yugoslav war criminal

[JURIST] Carla del Ponte, the United Nations' chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [official website; JURIST news archive], said Monday that the Roman Catholic Church [official website] and Vatican officials are concealing the location of the third most wanted war criminal from the Yugoslav conflict, General Ante Gotovina [ICTY case backgrounder; Wikipedia profile]. Gotovina is believed to be hiding in a Franciscan monastery in Croatia, but Vatican officials refuse to pinpoint which of the nation's 80 monasteries it is. Del Ponte said Vatican officials refuse to cooperate because they were not a state and had "no international obligations" to help the UN hunt war criminals. The Vatican has also refused to refute a statement by Bishop Mile Bogovic [profile] calling Gotovina a "symbol of victory" and declaring the tribunal a "political court" determined to distort Croatia's past. Gotovina, who is Croatian, is accused of overseeing the execution of at least 150 Serb civilians and the forced deportation of approximately 200,000 others. The Telegraph has more.

2:21 PM ET - A Vatican spokesman rejected Del Ponte's allegations [press release, in Italian] Tuesday, saying that the Vatican's foreign minister met with Del Ponte over the summer to discuss her claims that the Vatican is protecting Gotovina. The Vatican said it asked Del Ponte in July "to indicate with as much precision as possible the evidence on which she based her belief that General Gotovina had taken refuge in certain religious buildings in Croatia, in order to contact the relevant religious authorities," but Del Ponte did not respond to the request. AFP has more.

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