Vatican denies hiding Croatian accused war criminal

The Vatican spokesman has rejected reports that the Vatican Secretariat of State attempted to help hide a Croatian general accused of war crimes.

CLICK HERECatholic News Service reports that Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the UN international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, told a London newspaper she believes Gen. Ante Gotovina is hiding in a Franciscan monastery in Croatia.

In an interview published yesterday in the Daily Telegraph (right), she said she had met with Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican foreign minister, in July seeking the Vatican's help in discovering which of roughly 80 monasteries in Croatia was sheltering the general.

"They said they have no intelligence and I don't believe that," she told the Telegraph. "I think that the Catholic Church has the most advanced intelligence services."

"Msgr. Lajolo said to me, 'Let me know in which monastery Gotovina is hiding.' I said, if I knew, I would not be here in Rome," the prosecutor said.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said yesterday, "The Secretariat of State is not an organ of the Holy See that can collaborate institutionally with tribunals."

He said Archbishop Lajolo asked del Ponte to explain why she believed the general was hiding in a monastery and to provide some indication of which monastery it might be so that he could contact local church authorities.

Previous investigations of rumors that the general was hiding in a church building "had a negative outcome," Navarro-Valls said.

The spokesman said that as of yesterday del Ponte had provided the Vatican with no further details about her suspicions.

Gotovina was indicted in 2001 on charges that he was the commanding officer responsible for atrocities committed in 1995 as Croatian forces attempted to reclaim control of the Krajina region. Some 150 Serb civilians were killed and more than 150,000 were displaced.

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21 Sep 2005