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Address by Tribunal Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte to NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Belgrade: The ICTY and the Legacy of the past





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

The Hague, 26 October 2007

CdP/OTP/ PR1193e

Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte was invited to the Rose-Roth seminar organised by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly where she spoke about the 'ICTY and the Legacy of the Past' in the speech as follows:

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman,

It is an honour to be here at the Rose-Roth seminar.

I am happy to be here in Belgrade, in the presence of distinguished Members of Government and Parliament, and to speak about our work, our achievements and the legacies of this region's troubled past.

Serbia is at a crossroads. Its government has made a very clear commitment to its path to Europe though it still appears to be facing strong internal opposition. We hope that, together with other states of the region. Serbia will join the European community of nations and its system of values.

To secure stability and strengthen the rule of law, Serbia and its people need to reconcile with the recent past, learn from it and move forward. At the heart of this effort lies full cooperation with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. As it pursues its course towards modernity, Serbia must fulfill its international obligations. One of the most important
among those is to arrest and transfer Ratko Mladić, accused of genocide, to the Hague Tribunal for trial.


The topic of this session is the ICTY and the Legacy of the Past. This is a very complex subject that could be discussed at great length. I will, however, confine myself to a few remarks.

The entire region of the former Yugoslavia has to deal with a very difficult, very hard legacy - the legacy of the wars of the last decade. Horrible crimes were committed, the echoes of which are still very much with us today.

In response to these crimes, the UN Security Council made a visionary step and established the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

We have come a long way since the Tribunal's establishment in May 1993. In the early years of the Tribunal's existence, it seemed unthinkable that we would accomplish what we have done until to this date. Today, we are nearing the completion of trials and appeals. Although there is still work to be done, the achievements of the Tribunal are quite remarkable.

Despite the unprecedented nature of its task, the Tribunal has gone a long way to achieving the Security Council goal that persons responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide be brought to face public and fair trials. It is the first international court, since Nuremburg, to try senior leaders responsible for having committed such serious crimes.

The Tribunal set a precedent, by ending impunity of those senior political and military officials responsible for atrocious crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal tried a Head of State, Prime Ministers, former Ministers of Interior, former Chiefs of Staff, to name but a few. Not only did it demonstrate to the victims in the region that justice
could be done, it proved that international criminal law is enforceable and was a catalyst for the creation of other international criminal tribunals. The ICTY and our sister Tribunal, the ICTR, established in 1993 and 1994 respectively, were part of a first generation of international criminal tribunals. Since then we have seen the birth of other tribunals, such as the Special
Court for Sierra Leone, the International Criminal Court, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. And last June, the Security Council established, under Chapter VII, a new Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Unfortunately, in today's world, crimes are still committed on a massive scale - just look at Darfur and Eastern Congo. But, the victims of these crimes, at long last, now have a hope of receiving justice. The recent arrest of a second Congolese militia leader should be welcomed. It is proof that international criminal justice can prevail in other parts of the world as well.
Holding leaders responsible for the most atrocious crimes is no longer a distant dream. But this dream can only be fulfilled with the commitment of the international community to support international judicial institutions so that they may successfully fulfil their mandates and end impunity by bringing to justice those responsible for the most serious crimes.

Undoubtedly, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia represents a milestone in the rise of awareness for mass crimes, such as genocide and crimes against humanity. It also helped trigger a growing global and local response to such crimes. The Tribunal has contributed to sensitizing citizens to support the need to respect fundamental human rights and
strengthening the rule of law and it has made great progress in judicial work.

The Tribunal was established as a measure to restore and maintain peace and promote reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia. Peace has been established. However, its maintenance depends on many factors. True peace will only be maintained if the need for justice is satisfied, if facts about the war are undisputed and if reconciliation is achieved. The Tribunal is one element
of this process. It is a significant and very important part of the process but it is not and should not be perceived as the sole or the principal factor of reconciliation.

The Tribunal's primary contribution to peace and security, to regional stability and reconciliation is in establishing the facts and individual criminal responsibility. Convicted political and military leaders have been removed from power and cannot return to their previous posts and exert the same influence. Important facts are established about the crimes committed. Victims
are provided a measure of justice. However, though this is a great achievement, in and of itself it is not sufficient for the process of reconciliation. In order to succeed, this complex and sometimes painful process must be further supported by local and international actors. History books must be amended to include crucial facts established in the Tribunal's cases. Politicians
must provide their constituents with accurate information about these facts. Important institutions such as the religious establishment must foster an objective understanding of what happened. People must be given an opportunity to understand what was done in their name. Only after this understanding is reached can there be any hope for reconciliation. This complex task requires
new visionary leaders who can help reconstruct broken post war societies.

Furthermore, reconciliation and learning to deal with the past can be achieved through recovery of the truth. But, one has to be very careful when defining this truth. The debate on the conflicts and war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia is still rather heated. It is present in the media on a daily basis. It is almost always politicized, as it usually addresses the
war crimes issues through the political prism - not through the perspective of the victims. These debates often mix notions of truth with establishing facts. Truth can be a complex and subjective issue based only loosely on facts, and it could easily be seen differently by two sides or individuals. Facts, on the other hand, are indisputable.

The Tribunal has established many such facts. In the cases, we have produced important knowledge about the past, and what occurred during the wars. For example, we have determined that close to 8, 000 Muslim boys and men were slaughtered in and around Srebrenica between 11 and 17 July 1995. It is a proven fact. The evidence is indisputable, and the Tribunal's Appeals' Chamber
found that these killings deserve the legal qualification of genocide.

Has this knowledge been generally accepted by local populations? For some, justice rendered in The Hague - a distant quiet town on the shores of Holland - was something that was difficult to understand. Others did not accept this institution and attacked it to undermine its credibility. The distorted image spread in media in the region of the former Yugoslavia has had a
detrimental impact on public opinion. And there are those who continue to distort the record by denying the existence of crimes committed or misrepresenting what has really happened.

To explain our complex judgments to the local populations, staff members from the Office of the Prosecutor, Chambers and Registry have participated in workshops organized by our Outreach programme together with local NGOs. These workshops have been extremely fruitful. But they cannot by themselves impose a perception of the facts determined by judicial decisions. The burden
also lies on local and international actors to help understand the facts and truth. The Tribunal's wealth of accumulated documentary evidence must serve to generate an accurate perception of what really happened in the former Yugoslavia.

Governments, NGOs and historians should use the millions of pages presented in court to recount history as it really happened. The work of NGOs, such as the Humanitarian Law Centre, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights and others in the region should be commended. They continue to play a complementary role to the work of the Tribunal. For example, the Humanitarian Law Center
has undertaken the huge task of producing and publishing the entire transcript of the Milosević trial in Serbian, something the Tribunal had not been able to make available. Work is also being done to produce transcripts of other trials held before the ICTY. These transcripts contain a wealth of information for lawyers working on war crimes cases, historians, journalists,
ordinary people.

Another important source of information are the Tribunal's archives. The question of what will happen with the archive after the ICTY closes its doors has been raised by many. A working group has been set up at the Tribunal, under the direction of former Prosecutor Goldstone, to determine among other matters, where the archives should be located. This working group will
present a set of proposals on the future of the archives early next year. It is my hope that these documents be accessible to practitioners, prosecutors who continue to conduct war crimes trials domestically, and to the victims. Where they are physically located may have symbolic consequences. I believe it is crucial that the vast amount of documents be easily accessible and
made available to those interested from this region and that the original documents are stored in such a way so as to prevent any possibility of tampering with or destruction of this important material.

As we approach the completion of our work, the efforts of national prosecutors and judges is becoming even more crucial. Since the end of 2004, we have increased cooperation with local judiciaries and have become more engaged in assisting local courts in prosecuting war crimes cases. We have concluded agreements to provide access to our evidence collections and answered
requests for assistance by providing documents and technical assistance. We also provide expertise and know-how to domestic prosecutors. Contacts are maintained at various levels between staff from our office and the local courts. We have also formed a Transition Team to focus on the transfer of cases and files and to work with national authorities prosecuting war crimes cases.
This cooperation between the Tribunal and national prosecutors and judges, aimed at strengthening the capacities of national judicial systems and the rule of law will intensify over the coming years.

Such capacity building efforts to strengthen local judiciaries must be accompanied by measures to improve regional cooperation. Reconciliation, peace and stability in the region can only be achieved if States agree to build bridges and decide to effectively cooperate in areas such as combating crime and by assisting each other in bringing to justice those still responsible
for war crimes. Together with international organizations, such as the OSCE, we are therefore urging countries in the region to intensify regional cooperation in criminal matters. More specifically, States in the region should overcome obstacles to transferring persons indicted for war crimes. States should abolish the rules preventing their nationals from being extradited to
neighbouring States and ease rules for transferring procedures by removing legal restrictions. I am happy to say that this regional cooperation between war crimes prosecutors is on the right path and would especially like to commend the efforts of the Croatian and Serbian war crimes prosecutors in this regard.


As I speak to you today, our work is not yet completed. All our efforts and great results accomplished thus far are still tainted by the fact that four fugitives including Mladić and Karadzic, are still at large. This is intolerable for the victims and for the region as a whole. The success of the ICTY is not relevant only to the people of the former Yugoslavia. It is a beacon
of hope for the thousands of victims around the world who have come to believe in the system of international justice. This hope must not be destroyed by undermining the credibility of this system of justice and allowing those believed to be the most responsible for some of the worst crimes committed in Europe since the Holocaust to escape justice. Mladić, Karadzic and the
remaining fugitives must be arrested and brought to The Hague.

Over the years, the Tribunal has enjoyed the support of the international community. Without this support, we would not have been able to fulfil our goals and complete our mandate. In recent years, the policy of conditionality - the condition that full cooperation with the Tribunal would trigger financial support or lead to membership in an international organization or
programme, has proved to be the most effective tool in compelling the authorities in Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo to fulfil and honour their international obligations. Over the years, such conditionality was imposed by the United States in relation to financial assistance, NATO in relation to membership in the Partnership for Peace Program and the EU in relation to membership.
The sole effective tool today is EU conditionality. We still count on the European Union - the Commission, the Council, and all Member States, to insist on Serbia's full cooperation with the Tribunal as a condition in the pre-accession and accession process. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement process between the EU and Serbia should only be finalised when Ratko Mladić
is located or arrested.

I am convinced that the European Union, Serbia and the region as a whole has benefited from this strict and principled approach and I believe we are close to seeing the desired outcome - the remaining four fugitives in The Hague. I am in Belgrade to assess the authorities' level of cooperation with my Office. During this visit, I had meetings with Belgrade authorities at the
political and operational level. I have once more asked that they take all necessary measures to locate and arrest these fugitives, and in particular Ratko Mladić. I sense that a will to fully cooperate with my Office exists. I know that there are members of Government and senior officials who are working very hard to track down these war criminals. I also know that there are
those who could do much more. Despite the difficulties they face, I hope invested efforts will soon lead to concrete actions. If the declared commitment is turned into more effective leadership and coordination between security services and if more concrete actions are undertaken, I will be able to inform the European Commission and the Union's Member States that there is
progress in Serbia's level of cooperation with my Office.


All States of the former Yugoslavia aspire to joining the European Union. One has already become a Member State. The future of the Western Balkans lies in a peaceful and reconciled Europe. But there can be no true peace until Mladić and Karad¾ić are in the dock.

The Tribunal's work and its legacy will need to be furthered by others, in particular local governments and civil society, with the support of the international community. There will be no reconciliation in this part of the world without the recognition of the crimes committed by one's own nation. This in turn requires from leaders and from the public that they accept that
terrible crimes were committed in their name. Governments must undertake a serious, long-term effort to present history to the public and especially to the next generation as it truly happened.

Thank you.