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Statement by Madame Carla del Ponte, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
The Hague, 22 December 1999
PR/ P.I.S./ 457-e

Statement by Madame Carla del Ponte, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Until now I have been reluctant to make public statements about the work of my new office. As you know I am Prosecutor for both the ICTY and the ICTR. Before speaking to the media, I wanted to have time to see for myself how the two Tribunals functioned. In particular I wanted to see how the OTP functions in all its aspects.

My first 100 days in office has now been completed, and I have been able to form my impressions of how my Office discharging the mandate given to it by the Security Council. Let me say at the outset that I am very impressed by the activity of both Tribunals. Each of them faces different challenges, and has been successful in different ways. I would like to say a few words about some of the main issues that will face us in the year 2000.


I would first like to speak about the Rwanda Tribunal because I have recently returned from a three-week visit to Africa.

In the Rwanda Tribunal I found good work being done. These are dedicated and highly motivated people working in difficult conditions, and building complex cases against high-level accused. Next year will perhaps be the most important year so far for the Rwanda Tribunal. We will group together the accused for three major genocide prosecutions: I myself will lead the prosecution of the "Government case" – the prosecution of Ministers of the former regime in Rwanda; the Deputy prosecutor will take the "Military case" – the prosecution of key figures in the Ministry of Defence and the Army; and my Chief of Prosecutions will conduct the third trial – the "Media case".

In addition, the Appeals Chamber will shortly consider my application for a review of the decision in the case of Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza. The earlier decision -- now suspended -- to release this notorious figure from custody, resulted in a crisis in relations between the ICTR and the Government of Rwanda. However, I was able to enter Rwanda to meet the staff of my office and to make my first visit to a massacre site to see for myself the scale of the atrocities. I intend to return to Africa early in the new year, and I hope that relations with the Government of Rwanda will improve when the trials begin again. I am determined to spend a considerable portion of my time on ICTR business, working on the way in which evidence is presented to the Judges, on measures to trace the financial assets of the accused, and on new ways to recognise the position of victims in our proceedings. So the year 2000 will be a big year for the ICTR. I encourage you to follow developments there.

The former Yugoslavia

I would like to repeat here that my top priority for the ICTY will be the arrest of leading figures who are still at liberty. That issue has been on my agenda at every meeting I have held in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere, and early in the new year I will begin a further series of high level meetings with key Governments to discuss the practical issues involved. I plan to be very active on this issue, because everything depends upon indicted persons being arrested and brought to trial. I therefore plan to visit London, Paris and Washington and also to visit NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

The arrest of General Gali} is powerful indication of what can be done. He is now in the Tribunal’s custody here in The Hague, and his initial appearance will take place within the next few days. This is the latest in a successful series of detentions by SFOR troops in Bosnia. I commend the SFOR forces for the support they give to international justice, and have every confidence that we will see more such arrests. For my part, I will continue to use the policy of seeking sealed indictments so that the accused cannot take steps to place themselves beyond the reach of the Tribunal.

There have been recent encouraging signs of co-operation with the authorities of Republika Srpska. I have discussed the policy of sealed indictments with them, and they know my position. If this co-operation continues, I am ready, in cases where some accused have already been arrested, but sealed indictments exist against co-accused, I am ready to reveal to the RS authorities the identity of those sealed co accused, if the RS authorities are prepared to guarantee their co-operation in making arrangements for the arrest of these fugitives.

There must be no safe havens for those indicted for war crimes. It is disgraceful that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been allowed to become a refuge for alleged war criminals, and I will be calling on the international community to address this situation in every way it can. I will also take what steps I can to ensure that wealthy accused are not permitted to use their resources to sustain their efforts to remain at liberty. No single measure will solve the arrest issue, we must address it simultaneously on many fronts, we must be creative in seeking solutions, and as time passes we must not forget the horrendous nature of the crimes that are within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction.

I will also continue to press for action to be taken against any State that refuses to co-operate with my Office in its investigations. The obligations of States to comply with their obligations under international law are very clear, and the international community must not tolerate any obstruction of the mandate given to the Tribunal. Where I find such opposition to our work, I will continue to report the situation to the President of this Tribunal for the attention of the Security Council. We must not be naïve about the lengths to which certain elements may be prepared to go to block our investigations. Evidence has been recently found that points to concerted, organised and sinister attempts to interfere with our work, and I intend to be extremely vigilant in this area. The security of our investigations, and the safety of potential witnesses will therefore also be high on my agenda for the year 2000. It is imperative that the Security Council, our parent body, supports our efforts, and I am surprised that it has not yet acted upon the report of Croatia’s failure to co-operate with my investigations into allegations of crimes committed during and after operations Flash and Storm.

The security of our work will be all the more important because next year will see an active programme of both investigations and prosecutions. You know that we had to focus much of our attention on Kosovo this year, because our jurisdiction is open-ended, and we must deal with new crimes if they are committed. That means that in Kosovo we will not only look at crimes committed by Serbs. We will also investigate allegations against the KLA.

We have already given details of the results of our exhumation work, and I will not repeat them all today. We have already located 529 gravesites and recovered 2108 bodies. We found evidence of many more. The final exact figure will never be known because of the steps taken to conceal the crimes, and we are continuing to receive reports of new sites. We will therefore have a busy exhumation programme again next year.

Other investigations will also continue in relation to Bosnia and to Croatia. You have not yet seen the whole of the investigative activity of the OTP. It is my estimate that approximately 36 investigations must be completed before the Prosecutor can indicate to the Security Council that our investigative mandate is exhausted. At present 19 investigations have begun, which means that a further 17 have to be started. We expect that these will be finished progressively over the next 4 years, by the end of 2004. We anticipate this will involve around 150 suspects, almost all at a high level of responsibility. Some of these investigations will lead to new indictments - and I hope more arrests - next year.

There will also be significant trials in the year 2000, some of which will reveal evidence of matters that have not yet been dealt with at trial. We will see new chapters of evidence unfold concerning, for example, Srebrenica and the campaign in and around Sarajevo itself. You will begin to see the concrete results of a great deal of work that has been going on behind the scenes for many months. And you will also continue to see the development of our trial procedures because I am eager to find new ways in which we can draw on the best elements of the common law and civil law traditions. Both here and in Rwanda we are rapidly building a unique legal system of which we can justifiably be proud.