(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
Statement by Justice Louise Arbour, Prosecutor of the ICTY.
The ICTY was established by Security Council resolution 827 in 1993 and it has the power to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, since 1991. As the Prosecutor for the Tribunal, I am required to conduct the investigation and prosecution of such persons (Art. 16). As such, I have the power to question suspects, victims and witnesses, to collect evidence and to conduct on-site investigations (Art. 18(2)). Serious violations of international humanitarian law include grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, violations of the laws or customs of war, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Of these categories of violations, all but grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions may be committed during an internal armed conflict.
There has been protracted armed violence, between Yugoslav authorities and organised armed groups in Kosovo throughout most of the year. It is my position that an internal armed conflict has existed in Kosovo during 1998 and that the ICTY has jurisdiction over persons committing serious violations of international humanitarian law during that conflict. My position is supported by several Security Council resolutions:
(a) SCR 1160 of 31 March 1998 urges the Prosecutor to begin gathering information related to the violence in Kosovo that may fall within the Tribunal's jurisdiction and notes that FRY authorities have an obligation to co-operate with the Tribunal;
(b) SCR 1199 of 23 September 1998 calls upon FRY authorities and the leaders of the Kosovo Albanian community to co-operate fully with the Prosecutor, and
(c) SCR 1203 of 24 October 1998 calls for prompt and complete investigations, including international supervision and participation, of all atrocities committed against civilians, and full co-operation with the Tribunal, including compliance with its orders, requests for information and investigations.
The Tribunal has jurisdiction over a wide range of offences which may have occurred in Kosovo. These include crimes against humanity such as murder, torture, rape and persecutions. They also include violations of the laws or customs of war such as attacks on the civilian population, murder, torture, cruel treatment, taking of hostages, outrages upon personal dignity, wanton destruction of towns and villages, and looting.
There have been numerous allegations, specific and credible enough to require further investigations, concerning wilful killings (including a number of summary executions), wanton destruction (including the use of disproprionate force in attacking an area and devastation not justified by military necessity after the attack has been successful), attacks against civilians (including reprisals), and plunder.
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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