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Statement by Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte on the Occasion of her visit to Belgrade.

Press Release
(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
The Hague, 30 January 2001

Statement by Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte on the Occasion of her visit to Belgrade.

During my visit to Belgrade this week, I have had several meetings with various victim groups and associations, as well the relatives of persons who have been killed or are missing following the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Speaking with these people once again demonstrates that there are too many victims from all sides. They have a burning desire to see the perpetrators of the crimes brought to justice and they have the right to obtain justice. I sympathise with all victims and I am committed to their cause and to bring to trial those who were most responsible for the worst of the crimes. I cannot do this alone and I rely on States to co-operate fully with The Hague Tribunal in achieving justice for all.

I want to make one point very clear: I reject strongly notions such as collective guilt, and I do not intend to put the whole Serbian people on trial. On the contrary, I want to help Serbia turn the page and bring to justice those who, as individuals, are responsible for the crimes under our jurisdiction. I am convinced that public opinion in this country wants justice and truth.

And I also want the people of Serbia to rest assured that we are also investigating crimes committed against the Serbs, in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia. I am confident that co-operation from the new authorities in Yugoslavia and Serbia will facilitate the progress of these investigations, including against KLA, and other perpetrators on a higher level of command responsibility.

It was my hope that the new government of Yugoslavia would be willing to work with me in achieving justice for the victims and bringing those already indicted by The Hague Tribunal to justice. I was surprised that my meeting with President Kostunica on Tuesday did not lead to any meaningful dialogue. I was more encouraged, however, over the following two days that I was able to have such a dialogue with other Government ministers and officials. These meetings were not always easy and there are clearly areas where misunderstandings on both sides cloud some issues. But a dialogue has commenced which can lead to mutual understanding. I remain cautiously hopeful that some obstacles, such as the lack of a domestic legislation which allegedly hinders the surrender of indicted fugitives to The Hague Tribunal, will soon be put in place and that within a short period of time, the new Government will be in a better position to comply fully with its international legal obligations.

I am willing to work with the new Government in achieving a positive and fruitful working relationship with my Office. At the end of the day, however, full co-operation with the Tribunal cannot be avoided if Yugoslavia is to become a full member of the international community.

My first visit to Belgrade is almost at an end and I am leaving with mixed feelings. In many ways I am encouraged by expressions of some members of the new Governments of Yugoslavia and especially Serbia that there is a genuine willingness to co-operate fully with The Hague Tribunal. I am confident that I can anticipate almost immediate co-operation in many areas, including the re-opening of my office here in Belgrade and the resumption of a number of my investigations which will involve gaining access to many Serb victims and witnesses. These are positive developments and their significance cannot be denied. The real test, however, will be the new Governments’ willingness to surrender indicted fugitives to the Tribunal. For me, this will be the most important issue to be resolved in our future relations and the ultimate demonstration of true and full co-operation with The Hague Tribunal. So far, this remains an entirely open question.