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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Wants Hague War Crimes Court Shut

UNITED NATIONS- Russia's envoy to the United Nations Tuesday said it was time the Security Council considered shutting down the U.N. war crimes tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, calling it an anti-Serb court.

Ambassador Sergei Lavrov told the council during its monthly debate on Kosovo that a resolution it approved last November asked the Secretary-General Kofi Annan to propose "as soon as possible" a date the court could be shut down.

"We believe that the council could already be informed about proposed time-frames for compliance with the above instructions of the Security Council," Lavrov said.

He reminded the council that Moscow had regularly spoken out against bias in the special U.N. court set up to examine crimes against humanity during the wars that tore the old Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s.

"However, there is still prejudice -- including the anti-Serb bias -- in the tribunal's work, and you can see this first and foremost in the activities of tribunal prosecutor Carla del Ponte," he said.

Western governments see cooperation with the tribunal as a key test of the willingness of the new reform government in Belgrade to deal with Yugoslavia's turbulent past and fully embrace democracy.

Del Ponte, a Swiss, has pushed hard to bring to trial former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was ousted in a popular uprising Oct. 5. His indictment, however, was filed by her predecessor, Canadian Louise Arbour.

But new Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica has made clear he believes Milosevic should instead be tried in his homeland, and possibly on corruption charges rather than for alleged war crimes.

Milosevic had been accused of atrocities committed by Serb forces in Kosovo province during NATO's 1999 bombing campaign.

The tribunal was created in 1993 with a four-year life and extended another four years in 1997.

Since its inception it has indicted 98 people, and 39 of these of these are currently either on trial, appealing an initial judgment or awaiting trial. But proceedings are being handled by just 14 judges while the accused can spend years in detention awaiting trial.