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Statement of the Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.

(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
The Hague, 29 June 2001

Statement of the Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

The arrival of Slobodan Milosevic in the detention unit of this Tribunal marks an important day for international criminal justice. He is here, and I am satisfied about that.

I welcome the decision by the authorities of the Republic of Serbia to transfer him to The Hague, and I know that you have all been following very closely the developments surrounding this case. Not everybody in Yugoslavia agreed with the decision. Some of the comments made last night spoke of a defeat for Serbia. But there is no question of defeat or victory today. The Serbian people are not on trial here. The history of Serbia is not under examination. It is Slobodan Milosevic as an individual who will now face trial on the charges brought against him for his actions. That is a very positive development. The decision to transfer him to The Hague was the right one, and is fully justified by the international obligations shared by all Member States of the United Nations. The legal process will now take over, and as Prosecutor I am very satisfied that events can now move into this new phase. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for all the hard work that my staff have already done in this case, but I recognise that a great deal of work lies ahead of us.

As you know, I have been very active in recent months pressing for the arrest and transfer of all indicted persons. Today I wish to acknowledge the diplomatic support my Office has received from the international community. In relation to this particular transfer I am most grateful for the contribution made by the United States, and in particular by Secretary of State, Colin Powell; Chancellor Schroeder of Germany; and President Chirac of France. I mention them since I was in personal touch with them in recent days. Regarding yesterday’s operation, I especially acknowledge the support extended by the United Kingdom and by the authorities here in the Netherlands.

The transfer of Slobodan Milosevic marks the real beginning of co-operation by Yugoslavia, and I would like specifically to thank Prime Minister Dindjic and the Government of Serbia for the key role they played. The support of all Member States is necessary to ensure that the Tribunal can perform the task that has been entrusted to it, and that justice can be done.

I am also confident that the transfer of Slobodan Milosevic will now lend renewed energy to the task of arresting those fugitives who are still at liberty. Remember that there are still many other accused on other indictments who have not yet been taken into custody. Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were first indicted almost six years ago. The fact that they have not been arrested when we are preparing the trial of other members of the Bosnian Serb leadership is scandalous. All our accused must be brought to trial. The transfer of Slobodan Milosevic is a turning point that all authorities throughout the former Yugoslavia must now recognise.

This Tribunal was created by the Security Council of the United Nations as a measure to restore and maintain international peace and security. I firmly believe that there can be no lasting peace in a society unless the criminal justice system is allowed to take its course. Once indicted, leaders in even the highest positions of power must be made to answer the allegations against them. The victims of horrendous crimes must be able to see that there is an effective mechanism for bringing these accused before a court of law to account for their actions. Nobody is above the law, or beyond the reach of international justice. The international community today is demonstrating its determination that the victims will not be forgotten, and that their story will be told.

You have copies of the indictment and you can see for yourselves the serious charges against Slobodan Milosevic. This is not the time or the place for me to discuss the case against him. The arrival of an accused is only the beginning of the process. The indictment you see today was confirmed on 24 May 1999. It does not represent the final charges on which the trial will proceed. This morning an amended indictment was confirmed by Judge Hunt, and has been served this afternoon. That indictment still concerns crimes in Kosovo, but the charges now extend to cover more facts and additional victims. The amended indictment does not yet reflect any evidence that may be obtained from exhumations presently under way near Belgrade.

Indictments for crimes committed during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia are also in preparation. We are today only at the start of the case against Slobodan Milosevic not at the end. In the weeks and months to follow, you will see how the whole case develops.

In fact, I want to remind you today that every accused person is entitled to a fair trial, and I would ask you to reserve your judgment about the events themselves until the evidence emerges, as it will, in the course of the public trial. As we have seen this week at the conclusion of the trial of General Krstic concerning the Srebrenica massacres, a criminal trial is a powerful instrument for arriving at the truth and for determining the responsibility of individuals. I understand, of course, that developments such as the finding of bodies in a refrigerated container in the River Danube will cause immense media interest. People are rightly shocked by such discoveries. This may provide us with fresh evidence to support the charges, but this case will be tried in court, not in the media. The case is now sub-judice and you should take care not to prejudice its final outcome.