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United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan besought by the International Tribunal's President

Press Release

(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)

The Hague, 3 March 1997

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan besought by the International
Tribunal's President "not to allow a handful of States (...) to make a mockery of international public order".


Today, Monday 3 March 1997, Mr Kofi ANNAN, paid the first ever visit by a United Nations Secretary-General to a fully operational International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

During his two-hour stay at the Tribunal's seat, Mr ANNAN held a joint working-meeting with the Judges, the Prosecutor and the Registrar before meeting the staff members.

President Cassese: "Failure to arrest accused (...) is immoral" .

The President of the International Criminal Tribunal, Judge Antonio CASSESE, welcomed the Secretary-General by stating that his visit was a "testament" to his "support for, and interest in, this novel United Nations body".

After an outline on"the unique nature of the ICTY" and noting that "the Tribunal is fulfilling its numerous tasks efficiently", President CASSESE pointed out that "despite indisputable achievements, ...major stumbling blocks lie in the way" of the Tribunal's future".

President Cassese drew the Secretary-General's attention to "the failure of States to arrest indictees", which he called "the major stumbling block to [...] judicial action."

According to President CASSESE, "the failure to arrest persons accused by the Prosecutor of terrible breaches of international humanitarian law is a serious impediment -indeed a grave threat- to our ability to function at all. It is also a threat to the credibility of international institutions. And it is immoral". President Cassese quoted the Nuremberg U.S. Chief Prosecutor who said that "to let major war criminals live undisturbed to write their memoirs in peace would mock the dead and make cynics of the living".

President CASSESE continued by saying that "We must not allow a handful of States - in fact the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as well as the two entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina - to flout international law by refusing to comply with their obligation to execute the Tribunal's arrests warrants".

He then besought the Secretary-General "to consider drawing the attention of the Security Council to the grave dilemma of States' non-cooperation as soon as [he] deem[s] it appropriate".

Pointing out that "the Tribunal's success is essential to the establishment of a Permanent Criminal Court", President CASSESE concluded that the promise of international justice "will be fatally compromised if the international community continues to permit persons accused of genocide, "ethnic cleansing", mass rape and murder to remain at liberty, making a mockery of the august institutions of international public order".

Secretary-General Kofi Annan: "Impunity will not be tolerated".

The Secretary-General responded by stating that his visit was designed "to vindicate the message sent by the United Nations in establishing the Tribunal : impunity cannot be tolerated, and will not be. In an interdependent world, the Rule of the Law must prevail."

The Secretary-General concluded by expressing "the hope that the pressure will be kept on the governments who do not co-operate. Peace and Justice go beyond the selfish interests".

The full text of President CASSESE's address is available upon request at the Press and Information Office.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

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