Six months after being turned away by Serbian authorities, chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Louise Arbour entered Kosovo today aboard a NATO helicopter and prepared to meet with investigators combing through evidence of atrocities in the province.
Arbour's first visit to Kosovo was a striking measure of all that has happened since her first frustrated effort in January to lead a team of investigators from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
At that time, the tribunal was seeking to investigate reports of a massacre of some 45 ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces at the village of Racak. The government of Yugoslavia has never recognized the jurisdiction of the tribunal in Kosovo, and refused visas for investigators from The Hague, where the U.N. court is headquartered.
After the Racak massacre, peace talks were held in France but failed. That precipitated NATO's bombing campaign and the mass deportations and murders of ethnic Albanians by Serb-led Yugoslav forces. In May, the tribunal indicted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and four of his senior associates on war crimes charges.
"I'm perfectly certain Milosevic thought he could keep me out of Kosovo," Arbour said today when asked if the Yugoslav president would ever stand trial in the Dutch capital. "Well, he can't keep himself out of The Hague."
Arbour repeated her expectation that the May 27 indictments would be followed "in timely fashion" by more charges against Milosevic and his associates, and by more indictments stemming from evidence forensic teams are uncovering of mass graves and efforts to cover up Serbian atrocities.
As many as 20 tribunal investigators and other personnel are working in Kosovo, assisted by more than 100 specialists sent by countries that support the tribunal, including 60 from the FBI.
Arbour, who is stepping down in August to take a seat on the Canadian Supreme Court, said she had instructed her staff to focus on gathering evidence to corroborate information that is part of the Milosevic indictment.
"It is important that we not get distracted from our investigative agenda," she said.
The indictment names six sites of atrocities, including Racak, although many more are now known to exist.
CAPTION: Arbour said Milosevic "thought he could keep me out of Kosovo."