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Press Statement made by the Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in Zagreb on Wednesday 5 April 2000

Press Release PROSECUTOR

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

The Hague, 6 April 2000

Press Statement made by the Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in Zagreb on Wednesday 5 April 2000.

"This is my second visit to Croatia and I am pleased to witness the remarkable changes which have occurred since the new Croatian Government has taken office.

I am satisfied that I can now look forward to full and unconditional co-operation following my discussions with President Stipe Mesic, Prime Minister Ivica Racan, Justice Minister Stjepan Ivanisevic, Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic and Foreign Minister Tonino Picula.

The Government’s willingness to co-operate has already been demonstrated by the transfer of Mladen Naletilic (also known as Tuta) to the Tribunal last month and also by providing some documents relating to my investigations involving operation "Storm" in 1995. Further, the Government has signed an agreement with the United Nations, which provides for the formal and full establishment of the Tribunal’s Liaison Office here in Zagreb. These are important steps and I anticipate that there will be full co-operation in future.

I would like to say something about the important role being played by The Hague Tribunal in providing a basis for reconciliation amongst the peoples of Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

It seems that too many ordinary Croatian people regard all Serbs and all Muslims as being responsible for the atrocities which were committed during the conflict against Croats. Similarly, too many ordinary Serb people regard all Croats and all Muslims as being responsible for the atrocities committed against Serbs. And also, too many ordinary Muslim people regard all Croats and all Serbs as being responsible for the atrocities committed against Muslims. These notions of collective guilt are wrong and will hinder reconciliation. The truth is that all Serbs, all Muslims and all Croats are not responsible for the crimes committed by a relatively small number of offenders.

It is important to realise that some Croats did commit war crimes during the conflict and also that it is possible to commit atrocities even in the defence of one’s homeland.

My office is investigating such atrocities, whether they were committed by Croats, Serbs or Muslims. When I have sufficient evidence, it is my duty to bring an indictment and when the accused is surrendered, it is also my duty to prosecute the case.

The main focus of my investigations is aimed at those persons at the highest levels of responsibility, the highest military, political and police leaders, who allowed the atrocities to continue and who did not step in to prevent the bloodshed of innocent civilians or to stop widespread ethnic cleansing.

As difficult as it may be for ordinary Croat citizens to accept that some Croatian leaders were responsible for atrocities and war crimes, my investigations establish that this is the case. Accordingly, my duty is to bring indictments in those cases. Also, I have and I will continue to bring indictments against those Serb and Muslim leaders who are responsible for such crimes. This will include crimes committed in Dubrovnik and Vukovar.

By the time The Hague Tribunal finishes its work, all high level leaders who were responsible for crimes committed during the conflict would have been brought to justice. I believe the important work of The Hague Tribunal will help the healing process and will contribute to a lasting peace in the Balkans.

In conclusion, even though a lot of work remains to be achieved, I am very pleased with the new and real political will of the Government to co-operate with the Tribunal on all issues, including my investigations involving operations "Flash" and "Storm", and I look forward to a mutually productive relationship in the future. I am prepared to work in partnership with the new Croatian Government.

Thank you."



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