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ICTY Weekly Press Briefing - 16 April 2008

Date:  16.04.2008
Time: 13:00

Registry and Chambers:

Nerma Jelačić, Spokesperson for Registry and Chambers, made the following statement:

Good morning,

The Tribunal is concerned by a number of inaccurate and misleading statements made by agencies and some media in recent days following the rendering of the judgement in the Haradinaj and others case.

The Tribunal, as a body that has done so much to ensure that victims are respected and that their voices are heard, appreciates how they, in some instances, may be disappointed by specific decisions made by the Tribunal.  Their disappointment or frustration should not, however, be inflamed or abused by politicians or others in the region of the former Yugoslavia.  Rather than expending energies and resources on issuing negative assessments or false information about the Tribunal and its distinguished record, such parties should focus their efforts on investigating the many serious outstanding allegations against war crimes suspects and on detaining the remaining fugitives.

In light of continuing  malicious statements emanating from Serbia and other sources about the trial and judgement in the case of Ramush Haradinaj et al., I would like to stress once more that the Trial Chamber’s findings in this case - like in any other before the Tribunal – was based on the Trial Chamber’s assessment of the evidence before it. It did not find conclusive evidence which showed beyond reasonable doubt that the accused bore criminal responsibility for the crimes alleged. As such, the Trial Chamber acquitted the accused. This is a basic rule that guides all democratic judicial systems.

There are 30 days in which the Prosecution can appeal this decision if it believes it is warranted. Furthermore, if new evidence should come to light, the Prosecution can file an application for review of the Trial judgement.

Meantime, allow me to revisit the particular issue of witness protection that has been systematically misrepresented in Serbia. Contrary to the misinformation placed in the public realm by Serbian officials, allegations that witnesses who testified in this case were killed are simply untrue. The Trial Chamber clearly stated that the proceedings were held in an atmosphere where witnesses felt unsafe. To extrapolate from that assessment that numerous witnesses were killed is bogus and inaccurate. With respect to witnesses who were reluctant to testify, most responded to the subpoenas issued by the court. Those that did not are subject to contempt proceedings.

Let me now touch upon another matter. The Tribunal is aware of very serious allegations of human organ trafficking raised by the former Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, in a book recently published in Italian under her name. No evidence in support of such allegations was ever brought before the Tribunal’s judges. As I said, the allegations are extremely grave. It is up to the Prosecution to determine what information they may provide on this matter.

It is well known that, in line with its completion strategy, no new indictments will be confirmed by the Tribunal. However, the Tribunal has for a number of years worked intensively with the national courts in the former Yugoslavia, both building their capacity to handle cases and in the provision of materials to assist prosecutions. The Tribunal is committed to continuing its support for the work of local judiciaries on war crimes cases.

On to the latest developments in the Tribunal’s courtrooms. The hearing in the case of Stanišić and Simatović will resume on Monday 28 April at 13:15, on which date the full video-conference link with the UN Detention Unit will be established to ensure Stanišić’s full participation in the proceedings. There will be a pre-trial conference, followed by the Prosecution’s opening statement. The first witness will be called immediately after. Allow me to for the third time in recent weeks address deliberate untruths published in Serbian media about this case. Stanišić is afforded the best medical attention and is being treated by specialists of highest standards. Those that claim otherwise are simply not reporting the actual situation.

Yesterday, the Appeals Chamber terminated Enver Hadžihasanović’s provisional release in view of the Appeals Judgement in the case of Hadžihasanović and Kubura, which is to be rendered on Tuesday 22 April at 2.15 pm in courtroom III. Both accused are to be present.

Also yesterday, the Appeals Chamber granted Pavle Strugar and Berislav Pušić provisional release. Both accused are to be provisionally released no later than 17 April 2008. Strugar has been ordered to return to the UNDU by 21 April 2008 whilst Pušić is to return on 2 May 2008. Vladimir Lazarević was also granted provisional release by the Trial Chamber, on humanitarian grounds, from 25 April 2008 to 1 May 2008.

Last Friday, Mićo Stanišić’s provisional release was suspended in order for him to attend a combined status conference and hearing on Tuesday 6 May 2008, to discuss his wish to represent himself at trial. Mićo Stanišić is to return by Friday 2 May.

As regards court room schedule:

This coming Monday, there will be a pre-defence conference in the Prlić et al. case, at 2:15pm in courtroom I.  The Defence case is scheduled to commence on 5 May 2008.

Hearings in Šešelj, Delić, Gotovina et al. and Milutinović et al. cases continue as scheduled.

Office of the Prosecutor:

Olga Kavran, Spokesperson for the Office of the Prosecutor, made the following statement:

The Prosecutor will be in Belgrade tomorrow. This is his first official visit to Serbia in his capacity as Prosecutor of the Tribunal where he will meet with Serbian officials in charge of cooperation with the ICTY. He will meet with Minister Ljaljić, Prosecutor Vukčević and other members of the Action Team. He will also meet with the President and the Prime Minister and other government officials. The Prosecutor will conclude his visit on Friday morning when he will meet colleagues from the War Crimes Court in Belgrade.

In terms of the allegations of organ harvesting, in 2002-2003, UNMIK informed the Office of the Prosecutor of allegations that people had been abducted from Kosovo and taken to Albania where their organs were removed. It is our understanding that the Serbian authorities were also aware of these allegations at the time.

The Office of the Prosecutor, together with UNMIK and the Albanian authorities conducted a preliminary investigation into the matter and visited a site in north Albania in connection with the allegations.

Despite these efforts, the OTP could not substantiate the allegations and had no further basis on which to proceed in relation to our jurisdiction. The matter was left to the competent authorities – UNMIK and the Albanian authorities.


Asked to clarify her statement that “no evidence in support of such allegations was ever brought before the Tribunal’s judges”, Nerma Jelačić replied that in none of the cases before the Tribunal had the evidence about such allegations ever been brought to the judges. If during investigations such evidence was found, it would not come before the judges until there is an indictment. This is therefore a question that should be asked to Prosecution.

Asked whether no evidence at all had been found in Northern Albania, Olga Kavran replied that no reliable evidence had been obtained to substantiate the allegations.

Asked whether UNMIK is still pursuing the organ harvesting allegations, Olga Kavran replied that she did not know and that this is a question for UNMIK.

Asked whether the Albanian authorities had been taking part in the investigations into the organ harvesting allegations, Olga Kavran replied that the preliminary investigations were conducted together with the Albanian authorities through regular judicial assistance, because the allegations were in connection with the territory of Albania.

Asked whether there will be a press opportunity during Mr. Brammertz’s visit to Belgrade, Olgan Kavran replied that there will not be a press conference as such but Mr. Brammertz will provide a brief statement at around 11.30 tomorrow at the War Crimes Court.