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Kosovo: Statement by the President of the ICTY, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald.

Press Release PRESIDENT

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

The Hague, 31 March 1999
Kosovo: Statement by the President of the ICTY, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald.

I am stunned and horrified by the reports of the last few days from Kosovo and the States surrounding it. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ms. Ogata, advised me yesterday that since Sunday night, some 115 000 people have fled from Kosovo into Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. That figure has surely increased by now. Many of these refugees recount experiences that, if true, belong in a time and a place that we are supposed to have left behind: allegations of indiscriminate violence, destruction of property, mass round ups, systematic deportation, rape, torture and murder.

I wish to be very clear. The Tribunal has jurisdiction over violations of the laws and customs of war, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, crimes against humanity and genocide. There is no statute of limitations on 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. Where appropriate, persons will be charged and tried.

I would echo the Prosecutor’s call to President Milosevic to exercise his authority over his subordinates in order to prevent the commission of further crimes and to take all necessary steps to punish any crimes that have been committed. I would also remind President Milosevic and the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that just eight months ago, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted the former Prime Minister of Rwanda of genocide. In so doing, the court affirmed that governments have a responsibility to ensure that their citizens live in peace and security. The resulting trust and authority that governments enjoy applies equally, if not more so, to heads of State.

This is a test of our nascent order of international criminal justice. As I have repeatedly pointed out in the past eighteen months, the Tribunal has the mandate to investigate, prosecute and conduct trials but cannot do so without the assistance of the States of the international community. I would, therefore, remind all States of their obligation to co-operate with the Tribunal. All States and organisations in possession of information pertaining to the alleged commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal should make it available to the Prosecutor.

The Tribunal works tirelessly under difficult circumstances, lacking resources that national courts rely on. Although there are many obstacles, although it is a relatively long process, the Tribunal shall discharge its mandate. The Tribunal will not forget.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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