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ICTY Weekly Press Briefing - 23rd Jun 1999

ICTY Press Briefing - 23 June 1999

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

ICTY Weekly
Press Briefing

Date: 23 June 1999

Time: 11:30 a.m.


Today, Jim Landale, Spokesman for Registry and Chambers, made the following

In the "Sikirica
and others" case: The evidentiary hearing to resolve the identity of the
accused Dragan Kolundzija will be held on 24 June 2.30 p.m.



Mr. Graham Blewitt, the Deputy Prosecutor, made no opening remarks and agreed
to answer questions.



Asked how the
investigations in Kosovo were going, Blewitt replied that forensic teams were
already working on priority sites. The teams were arriving daily and would
do so for the next week or so although they had to be careful as the situation
was still dangerous and booby traps had been found, he said. KFOR continued
to secure sites and Blewitt acknowledged the high level of support received
by them.

Asked about
reports that the situation in Kosovo was worse than had been anticipated,
Blewitt answered that all comments were subjective, but as far as he was concerned
he had not been surprised by the number or extent of the massacre sites.

Asked whether
booby traps had been found in one place, Blewitt confirmed that that was the

Asked whether
there was any sign that evidence from sites had been hidden, Blewitt replied
that it was too early to tell, although there was evidence of sites being
destroyed. As far as possible the destruction of sites would be documented
as it could be valuable in cases where an accused claimed victims were killed
in the course of a battle, in which case, any moved or changed evidence could
dispute that, he said.

Asked whether
the torching of buildings was a common way to hide evidence, Blewitt answered
that buildings were destroyed for a variety of reasons including destroying
evidence. It was up to investigators to discover why particular buildings
had been destroyed.

Asked about
KFOR’s mandate to arrest indicted war criminals, Blewitt replied that,
although he had not seen the language of the recent North Atlantic Council
(NAC) decision, he understood that it was very strong on the question of arrests
in Kosovo.

Asked whether
the SFOR mandate might be strengthened to bring it in line with KFOR’s,
Blewitt replied that there was currently political will to strengthen SFOR’s
mandate which was helpful.

Asked about
reports from Republika Srpska that Radovan Karadzic had been in touch with
the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) recently, Blewitt replied that he had seen
reports that the Chief Prosecutor had met with Mr Karadzic which he stated
was untrue.

Asked about
KFOR’s mandate to arrest and whether this had been frustrated by most
of the perpetrators leaving Kosovo and returning to Serbia, Blewitt agreed
that that was true, but also said that no one would know in future who was
indicted and at least the mandate existed. It was, he said, unlikely that
any of the accused from Serbia would be in Kosovo, but in political terms
the mandate was still useful.

Asked about
a recent article by Judge Jorda in which he was quoted as saying that the
Tribunal was in danger of being paralysed with work, Blewitt answered that
it would not be proper for him to comment but that it was not a view that
he shared. If Milosevic did come to The Hague Blewitt said that he felt confident
that international community would help, he said. Procedures were being examined
in order to try to streamline the process and any backlog was also due to
the pattern of arrests as they had happened so far. Although indictments often
contained more than one indictee who could be tried together, their individual
arrests had made single trials a necessity. If the remaining indictees were
arrested quickly then the number of trials might be reduced, he said.

Asked whether
there was a possibility in theory to arrest indictees in Serbia legally, Blewitt
gave the precedent of the Eichmann trial in Israel in which he was taken from
another country to Israel. As to whether there was a legally justifiable means
of arresting individuals indicted by the Tribunal in Serbia, Blewitt said
that there was not, as far as he knew, a legal way, but that there might be
a legally justifiable way, dependant upon the manner of the arrest.

Asked whether
a case might be jeopardised by the means of arrest, Blewitt replied that it
might well do.

Asked whether
the OTP was still pressing for evidence in other areas of the former Yugoslavia,
Blewitt replied that the OTP was pressing NATO and others for information
on any crime. Other investigations may have slowed slightly at the moment
due to the Kosovo situation. Kosovo is currently the main focus but this did
not mean abandoning other investigations, he said.