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ICTY Weekly Press Briefing - 30th Aug 2000

ICTY Press Briefing - 30 August 2000

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

ICTY Weekly
Press Briefing

Date: 30 August 2000

Time: 11:30 a.m.



Jim Landale, Spokesman for Registry and Chambers made the following statement:

The Tribunal has
been requested by the Office of Legal Affairs at the United Nations Headquarters
in New York to provide observations with respect to the proposed creation of
an independent special court for Sierra Leone. The ICTY’s Judges are due to
discuss this matter in the course of the week and will send a response to New
York by the end of the week.

As you might be
aware, Security Council Resolution 1315, passed on 14 August 2000, "Requests
the Secretary-General to address in his report the questions of the temporal
jurisdiction of the special court, an appeals process including the advisability,
feasibility, and appropriateness of an appeals chamber in the special court
or of sharing the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunals for
the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda or other effective options…"

In addition, the
Resolution requests the Secretary-General include in his report recommendations
on "whether the special court could receive, as necessary and feasible,
expertise and advice from the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former
Yugoslavia and Rwanda;"

Copies of Security
Council Resolution 1315 will be available after this briefing.

There will be
a special plenary session of the Judges on 13 September, which will focus on
the issue of compensation for victims. This issue was discussed at the last
plenary on 13 and 14 July 2000, and following that by the Rules Committee, however,
it was felt by the Judges that more time was needed to discuss this important

Finally, next
week in Courtroom II there will be the resumption of the defence case in the
Kordic and Cerkez trial throughout the week, and on Thursday and Friday in Courtroom
III the continuation of the Prosecution case in the Kvocka and others trial.


Graham Blewitt,
the Deputy Prosecutor, made no statement



about the way in which witnesses are protected at the Tribunal in light of
the killing of Mr. Levar, Landale replied that as far as the Registry and
Chambers were concerned there were two slightly separate issues involved.
Firstly under Rule 75 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, protection measures
in court could be put in place at the order of the Judges in the Trial Chamber
upon request by either of the parties (the Defence or Prosecution), the witness
themselves or by the Registry’s Victims and Witness Section. Outside of that,
the relocation program outside of court was something ultimately decided by
the Registrar under close consultation with the requesting parties.

Blewitt went
on to discuss the press release issued this morning, relating to the death
of Mr. Levar. He added that the Prosecution also took the responsibility
for the protection of all witnesses before the issuing of an indictment.
This was an issue that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) took very seriously
because any threats to witnesses which resulted in their unwillingness to
cooperate and give evidence before the Tribunal not only affected the investigations,
but the entire work of the Tribunal, he said.

To answer
the question specifically, Blewitt said nothing had changed. This man was
not under the Tribunal’s protection at the time. That was not to say that
he was not somebody the OTP was interested in. However, as pointed out in
the press release issued this morning, he specifically did not want the
protection that the Tribunal could offer, he said.

to Blewitt, Levar wished to maintain a public image in Croatia and accordingly
went public in terms of his cooperation with the OTP. This might not be
seen by some as a wise thing to do if you were trying to protect yourself,
however, he obviously took the view that his best protection was going public,
Blewitt said.

Mr. Levar
had specifically requested the OTP to seek the cooperation of the Croatian
authorities to provide that protection. The OTP had been in consultation
with the Croatian authorities and in this case they had agreed to accept
the responsibility for such protection, he added.

In the intervening
period he was not aware of what had happened, whether it was assessed that
the threat level had reduced to the point that they did not have to provide
protection. These were questions that the Croatian authorities would have
to address.

Blewitt concluded
by saying that the event was unfortunate and would no doubt have an impact
on other witnesses, but to the extent that the Tribunal offered protection
and protective measures to its witnesses, nothing had changed and the OTP
would continue to do everything possible to provide adequate protection
to all of them.

Asked whether
at the very early stages in proceedings, prior to an indictment being issued,
the protection of witnesses was purely the responsibility of the OTP, Blewitt
replied that it was the Prosecutor’s responsibility to provide such protection.

Asked whether
this was the first time that a potential witness had been assassinated, Blewitt
replied that he believed that he was aware of instances where threats had
been made, but this was the first instance he could recall that a potential
witness for this tribunal had been killed. It had yet to be established whether
his murder was in anyway associated with the fact that he had spoken to the
OTP two years ago. He was not aware of anything else that had happened that
would justify such a conclusion being drawn, he concluded.

Asked whether
there would be space at the ICTY for an appeals chamber for the Sierra Leone
Tribunal, or whether it would fall under its own auspices, Landale replied
that whether it was a matter of sharing space or expertise, or sharing the
Appeals Chamber for the Rwanda and Yugoslavia Tribunals, or having them overlooking
proceedings were issues to be discussed by the Judges this week. No conclusions
should be jumped to as to what might happen. The Judges would forward their
observations to New York at the end of the week as to what they believed to
be practical and feasible within the resources available to this Tribunal,
he concluded.

Asked whether
the Resolution said anything about where the seat of the Tribunal would be,
Paul Risley replied that it would be in Freetown. Landale added that the Security
Council Resolution concerned the Tribunal on the issues of the Appeals chamber
and any expertise that the Tribunal would be able to lend.

Asked whether
Mr. Levar was seen as a key witness, Blewitt replied that no indictment had
been brought in relation to anything that Mr. Levar spoke to the OTP about
two years ago. He was not a witness as such, but clearly he was a potential
witness in the same category as all other people the OTP had taken statements
from but had not yet called on to appear as a witness, he said. The importance
of any particular individual as a witness depended upon what the person was
going to be called to say. He could not say whether Mr. Levar’s importance
as a witness was high or low. Clearly he was able to give relevant evidence
in relation to the investigation that he spoke to the OTP about, but beyond
that he could say no more, he concluded.

Asked for
his comment on the Stipetic case, Blewiit replied that he was amazed at the
hysteria generated in the Croatian media about the story that appeared some
weeks ago in Globus. He added that he did not know what was fueling this,
and he would not say any more than he had on previous occasions, namely that
the OTP did not comment on who was or was not under investigation. This whole
issue appeared to be self-generating in Croatia. He was not aware of any evidence
being issued to generate such reports. It appeared to be purely internal Croatian
politics, he concluded.

Asked about
his first meeting with General Ralston (the NATO Supreme Allied Commander
Europe), Blewitt replied that it was a friendly meeting and that General Ralston
committed himself to what the OTP would expect, namely the apprehension of
all remaining fugitives in Bosnia. In terms of other areas of NATO support
that was provided by KFOR and SFOR, the OTP had been assured that it would
continue. It was a first meeting with someone the OTP would have a lot of
future dealings with and a good relationship had already started, he concluded.

Asked what
type of involvement the OTP would have with the proposed Sierra Leone court,
Blewitt replied that the OTP had been asked to comment on the Statute and
on the Resolution of the Security Council, and the OTP was providing some
input with its observations, but he believed that the Security Council did
not wish to create another ad hoc tribunal in the form of the Yugoslavia and
Rwanda Tribunals. What was being proposed was a hybrid national international
court, he concluded.

Asked whether
the Sierra Leone Tribunal would resemble the Cambodian Tribunal as opposed
to the ICTY and ICTR, Landale replied that the language used in the Resolution
was ‘independent special court’ rather than ‘ad hoc tribunal’.

Asked whether
the Tribunal was interested in the case of Belgrade prosecutors charging 14
western leaders with war crimes, Blewitt replied that if this referred to
the similar claims made last year as a result of the NATO intervention in
Serbia, then it was nothing new and was something considered in the overall
context of the OTP inquiry into the NATO bombing and was dealt with and dismissed
in that context.

Asked whether
the ICTY would look at this decision to formally charge these 14 western leaders
in the context of concurrent jurisdiction between national courts and the
Tribunal, Blewitt replied that he was not aware that charges had been laid
so he was hearing this for the first time and could therefore not comment.

Asked whether
there would be a possibility of a trade with OTP dropping some of its charges
in exchange for these charges being dropped, Blewitt replied that he did not
see this as being a possibility. If there were such proceedings then his guess
was that they were politically motivated, all part of a pre-election ploy
by President Milosevic to try to generate more support from his electorate.
He could not envisage any serious charges against the people named. The only
context in which this could be raised could be in terms of the NATO bombing
and as he had said this had already been dealt with. This Tribunal questioned
the activities of NATO and there was no evidence of any intention to commit
crimes during the conflict, he concluded.

Asked about
a report earlier this week of the arrest by Bosnian authorities of a war crimes
suspect and whether the OTP had given its agreement that this case would be
dealt with by the Bosnian authorities, Blewitt replied that this particular
arrest was the consequence of a Rules of the Road case being processed. He
agreed that there had not been much news about the Rules of the Road, however
what he could say was that it was a project and programme that was working
and fully funded. He added that there were a number of experts involved in
the process. The OTP continually received new cases to be assessed. Blewitt
added that he would sign on almost a daily basis half a dozen cases which
would go back to Bosnia.

He went on to
say that the cases were not only coming from the Bosniacs but also from other
parties. The OTP was aware of trials taking place in Bosnia as a consequence
of the Prosecutor’s assessment of those cases. The conclusions sent back by
the OTP were varied. In a lot of cases the OTP believed there to be justification
for applying international standards for a case to proceed. There were also
many cases where the evidence was insufficient others where the OTP found
that they were not conclusive and further investigations were required before
saying one way or another. These were the different categories given to the
cases when the material being submitted was assessed. He added that it was
a very active programme and he assumed that the fact that arrests did take
place in Bosnia was an indication that the process was working.

Asked whether
the OTP followed up cases for example the Fikret Abdic case, Blewitt replied
that the OTP did not. He added that it was not part of the process to do so.
He added, however, that it was his understanding that Abdic was in Croatia
and as a consequence the case in Bosnia would not proceed. The OTP understood
that the Croatian authorities had indicated that they were not prepared to
extradite him to Bosnia.

He went on to
say that in any of these cases the OTP always had the ability to seek a deferral
of any national prosecution and the OTP would always reserve that right at
any stage of the proceedings. He was not saying the OTP would ever take over
a case, but it would be one of the possibilities, he concluded.

Asked whether
the Stipetic case had impacted on Croatia's obligations to the Tribunal, Blewitt
replied that nothing had changed in that the OTP still accepted that the Croatian
Government was committed to full cooperation with the Tribunal.

There were
many examples where cooperation was forthcoming, but there remained two
areas where the OTP believed Croatia not to be in full compliance, namely
the supplying of specific requested documents to the Prosecutor and allowing
the OTP to gain access to specified witnesses. This had been an outstanding
issue for some time and continued to be, but he added that the OTP was in
a dialogue with the Croatian authorities to try to overcome what difficulties
remained from their point of view.

From the point
of view of the OTP, the Croatian authorities had legal obligations as a
consequence of the nature of the Tribunal having been created by the Security
Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and the OTP suspected that
there remained within the Croatian administration certain elements that
had something to fear about Croatia being cooperative in these outstanding
areas. In terms of the Government cooperating with the OTP, he accepted
that it was abundantly clear that this was what the Government wanted to
do and he hoped in the near future to overcome all remaining issues.

Asked for
more information about the visit by the Prosecutor to some of Yugoslavia’s
neighbouring countries, Blewitt said that a programme was commenced several
months ago designed specifically to ensure that all of the neighbouring countries
around Yugoslavia were fully cooperative with the Tribunal and the Prosecutor.

The OTP wanted
to ensure that procedures were in place to identify any fugitives that might
stray into their territory and to ensure that if this happened they would
be arrested and surrendered to the Tribunal.

Due to her
other commitments particularly in Rwanda, the missions to those countries
had not yet been completed. In September, the Prosecutor was planning a
trip to Bulgaria and Romania, and the remaining countries in the later part
of the year.

In respect
to all of the missions that she had undertaken, cooperation had been assured
and positive operational procedures had been put into place in respect to
a number of issues. They were not just diplomatic meetings, but also operational,
and he would expect them to bare fruit in the fullness of time, he said.
It was also being done to enforce in the minds of all fugitives that they
were prisoners within their own borders and that if they stepped outside
those borders they could expect to be apprehended and surrendered to the

Asked whether
a statement would be made about these visits, Blewitt replied that in respect
of each country the Prosecutor would visit there would be a press conference
outlining the success or otherwise of the visit, in order to bring the visit
to the attention of the public and fugitives, which was part of the process.

Asked which
countries had already been visited, Blewitt replied Former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia (FYROM), Slovenia, Hungary, Turkey, Italy, and Croatia in a different

Asked whether
they would go to Cyprus, Blewitt said they would go to Cyprus and Greece at
a later date.

Asked whether
any dates had yet been confirmed, Blewitt replied that dates had been proposed
and that it was now a matter of fitting them in with the Prosecutor’s other
commitments in Africa and other countries.