Statement by Judge Mcdonald, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
The Prosecutor and I intended to travel to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) to attend a Conference on War Crimes Trials, organised by the Humanitarian Law Centre in Belgrade. The Prosecutor then expected to go to Kosovo to conduct investigations into possible violations of international humanitarian law committed there, as she is entitled to do pursuant to her mandate.
Yesterday evening, the Prosecutor was informed by the Government of the FRY that "the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia does not accept any investigation of ICTY [sic] in Kosovo and Metohija generally, nor during your stay in the FR of Yugoslavia [sic]." This statement is a blatant refusal to allow the Prosecutor to investigate events in Kosovo. This follows similar remarks made earlier this week by the Ministers of Justice of the FRY (Serbia and Montenegro) and Serbia, in which it was alleged that the International Tribunal’s competence to investigate events in Kosovo had ended with the recent signing of agreements between the FRY and the NATO and the OSCE. This situation is totally unacceptable.
I would like to emphasise that the position of the Governments of FRY (Serbia and Montenegro) and Serbia have no basis in law and that the refusal to allow the Prosecutor access to Kosovo is illegal. The Security Council has on a number of occasions reaffirmed the legal right of, and indeed has directed, the Prosecutor to investigate events in Kosovo. In March of this year, the Council urged the Prosecutor to begin gathering information related to crimes that may fall within the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal. It further reiterated the obligation of the FRY (Serbia and Montenegro) to co-operate with the International Tribunal. This was subsequently restated in resolution 1199 in September of this year. Most recently, in resolution 1203, the Council called "for prompt and complete investigation, including international supervision and participation, of all atrocities committed against civilians and full co-operation with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, including compliance with its orders, requests for information and investigations."
These resolutions were adopted, and the International Tribunal was established, by the Security Council under Chapter Seven of the United Nations Charter. As a matter of international law, all States are bound by such actions. The Government of the FRY (Serbia and Montenegro) is, thus, under a clear and incontrovertible obligation to co-operate fully with the International Tribunal. It may not take any unilateral action that countermands or undermines the authority of the Security Council. The decisions and orders of the Security Council supersede any statement or assertion made by that Government. Its actions, therefore, are in direct violation of resolutions 1160, 1199 and 1203.
This conduct is a further example of the FRY’s utter disregard for the norms of the international community. Essentially, it has become a rogue State, one that holds the international rule of law in contempt. The Prosecutor has written to me reporting the non-compliance of the FRY (Serbia and Montenegro), which prevents her from carrying out the functions of her office and interferes with the discharge of the International Tribunal’s mandate. Later today, I shall once again report this non-compliance to the Security Council. This conduct, however, is not only an affront to the International Tribunal as an institution, it is a direct challenge to the authority of the Security Council. I will urge the Council to vindicate its authority and respond forcefully to the action of the FRY (Serbia and Montenegro).
In denying the legal entitlement of the Prosecutor to investigate the situation in Kosovo, the Government is failing to co-operate fully with the International Tribunal as an institution. In these circumstances, it is inappropriate for me to travel to the FRY (Serbia and Montenegro).
In this regard, I wish to further emphasise that by claiming that it may act outside of international law, the Government of the FRY (Serbia and Montenegro) also acts to the detriment of its own citizens. Unfortunately, the population of the FRY is being stigmatised by the policies of its Government and is suffering acute hardship as a direct result of those policies. Thus, I deeply regret that I am now unable to attend the Conference on War Crimes Trials, as it has been organised by individuals within the FRY (Serbia and Montenegro) who are dedicated to upholding the rule of law and to promoting freedom of expression. It is now time for the international community to take strong action to prevent the obstruction of the mandate that it gave the International Tribunal.