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Press Statement By The Office Of The Prosecutor.

Press Release PROSECUTOR

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

The Hague, 24 March 1999

Press Statement By The Office Of The Prosecutor

In response to the New York Times article on 21 March 1999 titled "War Crimes Panel finds Croat Army "Cleansed" Serbs", the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) makes the following statement:

The first point to be made concerning this article, is that the Prosecutor regrets very much that it makes reference to, and indeed quotes from, documents which appear to be confidential internal documents of the OTP. The Prosecutor does not comment on the existence or progress of any investigation, and this has been the policy of the Office from its inception. In the same way the Prosecutor does not announce or confirm that particular persons are the subject of an investigation, in fact we go out of our way to insure that persons are not named until publicly indicted. To do otherwise would be unfair to such persons if they are not ultimately indicted. They would have a cloud hanging over their head with no way to address the injustice. The fact that this article mentions that named persons are under investigation is very regrettable.

The second point to be made is that the Prosecutor is gravely concerned about the means by which this information was communicated to the New York Times and is conducting an investigation into the matter.

The third point to be made is that the documents in question, apart from being several months old, merely represent expressions of opinion, arguments and hypotheses from various staff members of the OTP during the investigative process. It is important to understand that the documents do not represent in any way the concluded decisions of the Prosecutor. I repeat, the documents are merely work product and do not contain the official position of the Office of the Prosecutor.

The Prosecutor encourages vigorous debate within her Office, regarding the strengths or weaknesses of the evidence and legal theories which may be applicable to the facts and the evidence. Staff are encouraged to identify the broadest possible basis for any indictment or prosecution based on the available evidence, and then to test this basis by critical analysis and debate. The documents in question do nothing more than represent that process in action. The final position on the viability of any charge against any person is the sole decision of the Prosecutor, who if satisfied that the available evidence is sufficient, then presents an indictment to a judge for confirmation.

The next point to be made is that the public release of this information will have no effect on the Prosecutor’s decision whether to proceed further in this case, nor on the timing of any indictment. Whether the motive for making the material available to the media was to force the Prosecutor’s hand to issue the indictment or to bring it forward at an earlier time, or whether it was done to ensure that she would not issue any indictment at all, the end result is that the release of the information will have no such effect. The Prosecutor will do what her mandate from the Security Council requires independently and objectively and will not allow herself to be influenced or manipulated by outside forces.

In conclusion, and noting some more recent media reports arising from the publication of the New York Times article, it should be remembered that under the Statute of the Tribunal, State co-operation is not conditional upon any State being satisfied with the Prosecutor’s decisions to commence an investigation or to bring an indictment. The Prosecutor expects that Croatia will continue to fulfil all its international obligations, including the surrender of all indicted persons to The Hague.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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