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President McDonald Writes to NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs on Situation in Kosovo.

Press Release · Communiqué de presse

(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)

The Hague, 8 April 1999




Please find below the text of a letter sent by Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, to all NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

6 April 1999


I am stunned and horrified by the recent reports from Kosovo of the overwhelming number of refugees fleeing to neighbouring States. Many of these refugees recount experiences that, if true, belong in a time and place that we are supposed to have left behind: allegations of indiscriminate violence, destruction and theft of property, mass round-ups, and systematic torture, rape
and murder.

I wish to be very clear regarding the role in this crisis of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia: the Tribunal has jurisdiction over violations of the laws or customs of war, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia from 1 January 1991 to the present. There are no
statute of limitations for these crimes. Persons indicted by the Tribunal thus remain indicted until they are brought to trial. While the situation on the ground may change, the law does not. Crimes will be investigated and where appropriate, persons will be charged and tried.

As I have repeatedly emphasized during the past 18 months, while the Tribunal has the mandate to investigate, prosecute and conduct trials, it cannot do so without the active assistance of the States of the international community. All States and organisations in possession of information pertaining to the alleged commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal
should make such information available without delay to the Prosecutor. Several NATO Member States have expressed a willingness to assist the Tribunal with providing such evidence. I am confident that all Members of the North Atlantic Council will assist the Tribunal in providing any evidence of criminal wrongdoing in their possession.

The Tribunal works tirelessly under difficult circumstances, lacking the resources which national courts rely on. Although this is a relatively long-term process with many obstacles, the Tribunal will discharge its mandate. The co-operation of your Government will assist in this important endeavour.

Excellency, please be assured of my highest consideration.


Gabrielle Kirk McDonald