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Address by Ms. Carla Del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY, to the North Atlantic Council

Press Release . Communiqué de presse

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


The Hague, 3 November 2004

CDP/ P.I.S./907-e


Please find below the full text of the statement made by Ms. Carla Del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, to the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on 3 November 2004.

Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you very much for your kind invitation. It is a great honour for me to be given this opportunity to address the Council. NATO and its member-States’ strong support remains essential as we approach the first important deadline of the completion strategy approved by the Security Council.

The completion strategy gives a clear way forward for the Tribunal and for the States of the former Yugoslavia. I am conducting six remaining investigations, and I will forward my last indictments for confirmation to the Judges before the end of this year. As soon as they are confirmed, everyone will know precisely what remains to be done, which accused remain to be tried in The
Hague. However, I am afraid that the timeframe set in the completion strategy, whereby the Tribunal is to finish its firs instance trials by the end of 2008 and close its doors by the end of 2010, has been misinterpreted by some. The protective networks of Karadzic, Mladic, Gotovina and the other persons indicted by the ICTY who are still at large are simply waiting for the end of the
Tribunal. They expect that on 1st January 2009 they will be free. It is a strategy for impunity and it needs to be defeated. How?

First, the international community must stress that the work of the ICTY cannot be completed before the most senior officials accused of the worst war crimes, such as Mladic, Karadzic and Gotovina are brought to justice in The Hague. I am grateful to the EU member-States for having underlined precisely this on 13 July. I am also grateful to the US Government for having raised the
same concern on various occasions.

Second, those, including NATO, who have the power to locate, detain or arrest our fugitives must intensify their efforts. Let’s be frank: NATO has not been very successful in the past year. Croatia, in March, reacted swiftly and efficiently to new indictments involving eight accused, and transferred them immediately to The Hague. On 10 October, Serbia arrested and transferred to
The Hague Ljubisa Beara, a senior military official from the Republika Srpska who was indicted in 2002 for the Srebrenica genocide. The Serbian authorities acted upon precise information that I had forwarded to them, and they had no choice but to carry out the arrest. On two similar occasions this year, in March and in July, the same authorities refused to carry out the arrests. Quite
the opposite: the accused were informed and fled. To this day, the Serbian authorities have not produced any credible explanation about these leaks, thus we can only assume the worse. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, SFOR has not arrested anyone for one year and a half. This is a sharp contrast with the previous years, as SFOR was indeed very successful in arresting or otherwise helping to
bring 29 indictees to the Court between 1997 and April 2003.

After Beara’s transfer to The Hague, there are currently 21 accused at large. This is not only the most significant obstacle hampering a swift and efficient implementation of the ICTY completion strategy. It is also a disgrace for all those who have the responsibility to carry out the arrests. The Governments of Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia and the Republika Srpska within Bosnia
and Herzegovina bear the main responsibility for this failure.

I was in Belgrade one month ago, and I discussed this matter with State Union officials and with the Republican authorities. Unfortunately, Serbia and Montenegro has become a safe haven for our fugitives. In addition to Mladic and three out of four generals indicted for the crimes committed by Serbian forces in Kosovo, a number of Bosno-Serbs have found refuge there. This was not
denied by any of the officials I met in Belgrade. At the level of the State Union, I found a genuine willingness to work seriously on the arrest of fugitives, but the main responsibility lies with the Serbian Republican Government. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Kostunica and members of his Government made it clear to me that they were not prepared to arrest and transfer the fifteen
indictees who live in Serbia.

Let me underline that we are talking of serious crimes here, crimes that will not and cannot be forgotten or forgiven if the people responsible are not tried. Reconciliation is at stake. Srebrenica has been recognised as a genocide in a final judgement rendered by the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY on 19 April 2004. The report of the Srebrenica Commission imposed upon the Republika
Srpska by the High Representative puts the death toll at 7’800 in just a few days. Mladic, Borovnica, Pandurevic, Popovic and Nikolic, who are senior military and police officials indicted for this genocide, are at large in Serbia. Generals Pavkovic, Lukic and Lazarevic, who are all living freely in Serbia, are indicted not only for their command responsibility, but also for their
direct individual responsibility in the crimes committed in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999. You are certainly very familiar with these crimes that include the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Other fugitives in Serbia are indicted for murders, rape and torture. We talk a great deal about the fugitives. Let us think one second about the victims and their

Those crimes remain unpunished because the Serbian authorities are not ready to arrest and transfer the persons indicted for them. The Minister of Justice of Serbia has said publicly that his government was not ready to proceed with arrests, only with voluntary surrenders. Worse : the networks protecting the accused at large have managed to create an atmosphere, in particular in
the media, which makes arrests and transfers of fugitives to The Hague even more difficult. Indictees are depicted as heroes and the Prosecutor of the ICTY has become the scapegoat for everything that goes wrong in Serbia. No word of the crimes, no word of the victims. But the victims neither forget, nor forgive. This in itself may bear the germs of future conflicts. The ICTY is
trying through its modest outreach programme to balance the frequent smear campaigns by objective information. But the means at our disposal are disproportionately low compared to the power of these extreme nationalist networks.

Although the situation is most acute in Serbia, such networks remain of course active in other places as well, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.

In relation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the report of the Srebrenica Commission I mentioned a moment ago is indeed a significant milestone on the road to truth and justice. One has to realize that the reality of the Srebrenica genocide was still denied not long ago. Among those who accepted that killings took place in Srebrenica, many believed that these were not crimes. I hope that
the Srebrenica Report will be circulated widely in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia and Montenegro. It can help greatly to raise awareness among average citizens about the necessity of justice.

Despite this positive development, there is nothing new to report in regard to co-operation with the ICTY. The authorities in Republika Srpska have still not located and arrested one single indicted fugitive to date. Radovan Karadzic is known to spend much of his time in that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He still enjoys the full support and assistance of the authorities there at
all levels. He even manages to publish books that become best-sellers in Serbia. It is deeply disappointing to me that SFOR will leave the country having failed to arrest him. I am aware that increased activities in this regard took place last winter and during the spring. The High Representative also took bold steps to cut the support networks.

A new arrangement will be in place soon, and I look forward to work closely with the NATO Headquarter in Sarajevo and the EUFOR. On issues of PIFWICS, we need essentially two things: clarity in the chain of command and a rapid reaction capability. Whenever I am in possession of information on the location of a fugitive, I need to forward it through the most rapid and secure
channel. It is also essential for me to be fully de-briefed after I have passed information: how was it assessed? What measures were taken if any? What were the results? It is only through such a process that we will enhance the quality of our information and of our co-operation. I understand we are dealing here with sensitive matters. I am convinced it is possible to approach them
with trust and openness, while preserving confidentiality, since we all know how cautious we must be when using intelligence.

I am not only concerned about Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Croatia, I have similar problems. It is a great disappointment for the ICTY that Croatia did not arrest General Gotovina to this day. In the course of the spring, the Government apparently intensified its efforts to locate this fugitive, and I was confident that he would be arrested during the summer. It is very unfortunate
that this did not happen and that, in July and August, the momentum was lost. Gotovina is still in Croatia.

On 12 October, an indictment against Miroslav Bralo, a former member of the Bosno-Croat special forces, was unsealed. He was indicted in 1995 among other things for murder, wilful killings, rape and torture. We had located him in Croatia earlier this year and expected his arrest in the course of the spring. For reasons that remain unclear, the Croatian police did not carry out the
arrest and he disappeared. I expect the Croatian authorities to achieve results on these two issues before my next report to the Security Council on 23 November. By results, I mean the arrests of Gotovina and Bralo.

Most of the 21 fugitives are in these three countries; however, according to our information, three of them are in Russia. I approached the Russian Government and it responded recently that it had not been able to locate them so far.

My mandate is to indict the most senior leaders responsible for the worse crimes, and I am still working on six investigations that might all result in a new indictment. One of them may be of special interest to you, because it concerns Kosovo. You may remember that one KLA-related indictment was issued in 2003 and 3 persons arrested and transferred. The trial will start shortly.
We are working on one more investigation concerning the KLA leadership. I did not receive any co-operation from the international community on this investigation. However, I am confident I will be able to issue a solid indictment by the end of this year.

In both cases, we face enormous problems because of the huge pressure exerted by the suspects and the accused on our witnesses. Witness intimidation is a serious problem throughout the former Yugoslavia, but in Kosovo it is widespread, systematic and potentially deadly. We have recently approached the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on this sensitive and
difficult question, and I do appreciate the strong support received by UNMIK, KFOR and some individual NATO States in this context.

As the ICTY focuses on the most senior leaders responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, domestic courts will have to carry out numerous trials of mid- and low-level perpetrators. I have already requested the Chambers to refer to Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia five cases involving persons who are currently under the jurisdiction of
the ICTY. Indeed, a lot of efforts have been devoted to establishing functioning war crimes courts in these countries over the past year. In this context, we have developed a fruitful partnership with the OHR in Sarajevo, and also with the prosecutors in Belgrade and in Zagreb. The respective prosecutors show professionalism and often a great deal of courage. What they are doing is
not popular. They live under threat. They face all sorts of pressure. Governments or politicians do interfere. Therefore, they need your full political and practical support.

For instance, Mr. Vukcevic, the war crimes prosecutor in Belgrade, has asked me to intervene with UNMIK so that he can interview witnesses in Kosovo in the course of his investigation of the largest mass grave found in the Balkans. He told me he had not been allowed to go to Kosovo for that purpose. This mass grave is located on the outskirts of Belgrade and contained over 700
bodies of Kosovo Albanians. I have developed a very good working relationship with him, and I trust UNMIK will do the same.

Mr. Secretary General,

The Tribunal is under strong pressure to wind down its task as soon as possible. Because a number of States have not paid their UN assessments, unbearable financial pressure was added to the political pressure in the course of the spring. As a result, I have lost almost 50% of my senior legal staff and over 40% of my senior investigators. A freeze on new recruitment imposed by the
UN Secretariat prevents me from replacing them. The easy solution for me would be to cancel investigations and focus on the trials of those who are in our custody. This is what many want, both within and outside the former Yugoslavia.

But this would overshadow the future of the region for decades, and it would be a very bad omen for the future of international justice. The international community must remain united in its willingness to see justice be done in the former Yugoslavia. This means first and foremost arresting all fugitives. With the interest of the most powerful nations turning elsewhere, it has
become difficult to mobilize the intelligence and operational resources that could help locate and arrest them. On the other hand, I am relieved to see that the most important Euro-Atlantic organisations, including NATO, remain firm in their political support for the work of the Tribunal. Beyond this political support however, we should seek practical ways to help Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and Croatia in their efforts to track Mladic, Karadzic, Gotovina and the others. We need to ensure all fugitives are arrested. One way is to provide operational assistance. Another way is to destroy the support networks. A third way is to encourage deep structural reforms of the security sector. In all these areas, NATO is uniquely placed to make a

Thank you for your attention.