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News Briefs

U.N. Handling of Kosovo Justice Criticized by Serbs and Albanians

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, YUGOSLAVIA

The United Nations, one of the world’s most vocal champions of human rights, is facing mounting complaints that it has violated the most basic rules of justice in Kosovo.

Fourteen months after the United Nations took charge of the Serbian province, both Serbs and ethnic Albanians are accusing its criminal courts of excessive delays, bias among judges, widespread witness tampering and other serious violations of the right to a fair trial.

Defending the world body, spokeswoman Susan Manuel said that the United Nations is trying to make the local justice system work but that a boycott by Serbian prosecutors and judges -- compounded by a chronic shortage of foreign aid money and experts -- is making a difficult job worse.

In addition, the foreign-led U.N. police force has complained that frequent intimidation of witnesses and court officials makes it extremely difficult to investigate and prosecute crimes.

Vladimir Vucetic is one of several prisoners whom Serbs point to as evidence that the United Nations is failing to ensure impartial justice in Kosovo. The mentally disabled Serbian teen-ager has spent 11 months in a U.N. prison awaiting trial. He was charged with genocide on Sept. 27, 1999, after an ethnic Albanian woman accused him of being in a group of Serbs who set fire to three houses in the town of Kosovska Mitrovica.

Counsel’s Report Exonerates Babbitt in Casino Decision

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Independent counsel Carol Elder Bruce Tuesday issued her final report clearing Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt of wrongdoing in the rejection of a proposed Indian gambling casino in Wisconsin and saying she found no evidence that the decision was “criminally corrupted” by political influence.

The 484-page report details the reasons for Bruce’s decision last year to wrap up her probe without seeking the any indictments. Among other things, it concludes that Babbitt played “no meaningful role” in the casino deliberations and cites his “strong reputation for integrity, truth and veracity in the community.”

Bruce, who spent more than $5.6 million in her investigation, said that Babbitt gave “inconsistent and puzzling testimony” to a Senate committee about the casino decision.

But she said that evidence was insufficient to prove that he committed perjury.

The controversies stemmed from a plan by Croixland Properties Inc. and three Chippewa tribes to install an off-reservation casino on the site of a failing greyhound track in Hudson, Wis.