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ICTY Weekly Press Briefing - 16th Dec 1998

ICTY Press Briefing - 16 December 1998

note that this is not a verbatim transcript of the Press Briefing. It is merely
a summary.

ICTY Weekly
Press Briefing

Date: 16 December 1998

Time: 11:30 a.m.


Jim Landale, the
ICTY Spokesman, began today’s briefing by pointing out that press releases
were available on the President’s speech to the Peace Implementation Council
meeting in Madrid yesterday, the deferral request and on the fine imposed on
Mr Nobilo for contempt of court.

He also reminded
journalists that this was the last week of court hearings until 8 January, and
that the next press briefing would be on 6 January.


The Prosecutor,
Justice Louise Arbour, then made the following remarks:

On the deferral
hearing, she confirmed that the court had granted the order. The hearing in
Belgrade was still scheduled to go ahead despite this order. The invitation
letter received by Justice Arbour had invited ICTY officials to attend and visas
had been applied for and were granted, although they had been informed orally
that they could not go to Kosovo during their stay. In turn, the Office of the
Prosecutor (OTP) had orally requested that, should Mrksic, Radic and Sljivancanin
appear, they should be detained and transferred to The Hague. This request would
be conveyed again at the hearing on Thursday, she said adding that arrest warrants
for the three had been re-served. The Tribunal court order gave 60 days for
the Belgrade military court to comply. If they did not then the President would
be requested to bring the matter to the attention of the Security Council, she

Justice Arbour
then went on to give a briefing about the visit to the Tribunal of the Minister
of Justice for the Federal Republic Yugoslavia (FRY) on Thursday. Justice Arbour
said that the meeting would discuss several matters including practical assistance.
The Minister would also meet the President and the Registrar, she said.

Whilst in Madrid,
Justice Arbour, met the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ivanov. This,
she explained, was partially because of the increased frequency and strength
of public comments by them, especially on the issue of sealed indictments. The
Russian Minister questioned the legality of sealed indictments and secondly
he argued that sealed indictments deprived willing governments of the opportunity
to comply, as well as depriving indictees of the chance to surrender. In reply
Justice Arbour stated that the legality of sealed indictments should be debated
in court and should not be a political matter. On the second point of depriving
willing governments, she pointed out that 25 outstanding arrest warrants, many
easily executable, existed in Republika Srpska (RS). As to the question of depriving
individuals of the chance of surrendering, she felt this had no air of reality.
Justice Arbour stated that the sealed indictment process would continue until
the authorities executed outstanding warrants on public indictments. She repeated
a request to the Minister to give diplomatic support in order to persuade the
FRY and RS to execute arrest warrants. The Minister gave no undertaking in this
regard, she noted.

Lastly, Justice
Arbour drew attention to the recent guilty plea to genocide at the Rwanda Tribunal.
She stated that this was a very significant development.



Asked whether
Justice Arbour expected a ‘show down’ tomorrow at the hearing. Justice
Arbour replied that she expected the law to be obeyed. The legal requirement
was for the court to defer to the Tribunal and for the men to be detained
and transferred.

When asked
how many Tribunal people would attend the hearing, Justice Arbour said she
could not be sure but that neither she nor the Deputy Prosecutor would attend.

Asked what
the Tribunal would do if the hearing went ahead, Justice Arbour said that
this would signal the end of the road. It would not be sufficient to give
a technical report to the Security Council. She would recommend that the President
undertake a full inventory of non-compliance. She said that the fact that
the hearing was still going ahead tomorrow was not a good sign. She felt that
there was no ambiguity over the deferral and no local impediment, therefore
any non-compliance should be seen as defiance.

Asked about
President Tudjman’s recent comments on indictments being prepared for
five or six generals. Justice Arbour stated that she was unaware of the context
of those comments but that the tone was belligerent and aggressive.

Asked whether
it was clear who the suspects might be in the hearings tomorrow, Justice Arbour
said that it was not. The invitation received did not indicate the targets
of the investigation. When asked whether a court could hold hearings without
a suspect, Justice Arbour said that as it was a military court she did not
know, it was only clear that the three would give evidence.

Asked what
the obligations of the Tribunal were when asked to transfer evidence, Justice
Arbour explained that there was no obligation except to hand over material
to any accused after their initial appearance under disclosure obligations.
They were also obliged to give evidence and information for indictments. They
had no obligation to any national court, indeed they had primacy over national
courts, she stated.

Asked whether
the Russian Foreign Minister commented on the way Krstic was arrested - a
reference to reports that he was tortured - she replied that he only spoke
of the issue of sealed indictments. Further, Justice Arbour categorically
stated that the allegations of torture were completely without foundation.
She had spoken to General Clark and was totally satisfied that the arrest
was handled appropriately. Any suggestion to the contrary was outrageous and
scandalous, she said.

Asked whether
she had seen any signs that the Russian Foreign Minister accepted her explanations,
Justice Arbour replied that she had stated her position fully and frankly
and that he understood the situation perfectly, although this was not necessarily
acceptance. She further stated that, if there had previously been any misapprehension
over any part of the sealed indictment issue, there was not now.

Asked whether
the Russian stance in the Security Council impeded the work of the Tribunal,
Justice Arbour replied that the Security Council was there to give assistance,
especially the permanent members. She continued saying that she found it puzzling
that anyone should criticise legal and effective methods without offering
any alternative.

A journalist
pointed out that one reason given to explain sealed indictments was that they
helped make arrests possible and asked whether this made any sense for those
indicted in the FRY and Croatia, where SFOR had no mandate. Justice Arbour
replied that the policy gave a strategic advantage to any authority willing
to execute it. She further explained that, if a government was willing to
execute an arrest warrant and secrecy would aid them, then she would request
a sealed indictment.

Asked whether
at the hearing in Belgrade the Tribunal personnel would stand and say ‘arrest
those men’, Justice Arbour answered that it would not be quite like that,
but that the Tribunal had already requested that the military court detain
the suspects on behalf of the Tribunal.