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ICTY Weekly Press Briefing - 10th May 2000

ICTY Press Briefing - 10 May 2000

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

ICTY Weekly
Press Briefing

Date: 10 May 2000

Time: 11:30 a.m.



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

In the Talic and
Brdjanin case, the Defence for General Momir Talic has filed a motion in French
requesting that Judge Mumba be withdrawn from sitting on the trial due to the
fact that she has already ruled on the issue of "international armed conflict"
in the Tadic appeal.

Also, we have
just received some sworn ‘supporting statements’ from the Defence for Dario
Kordic, which were taken from defence witnesses in Bosnia in front of an investigative
judge in the municipal court in Vitez. These are witnesses whose testimony has
been requested by the defence team to support Kordic’s case.




Paul Risley, Spokesman for the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) made the following

The Prosecutor
is in Kigali today. She was in Arusha before this and will likely return to
Arusha by the end of the week, where she will remain for another week.

I was in Kosovo
last week and I can give you an update of the work of the exhumations there.
The Tribunal morgue is in operation, located outside Orahovac. It is a central
facility where bodies can be taken from all sites in Kosovo.

This is a marked
improvement on last year when most autopsies were done on-site. Now the teams
have the ability to remove bodies from the field and take them to a very professional
morgue, built and equipped to the highest European standards, including an x-ray

Just as important
as the establishment of the morgue, UNMIK has created a Victims Recovery &
Identification Commission (VRIC). This is made up of personnel from UNMIK, the
Tribunal, the OSCE and a local NGO. They will take over the primary duty of
the identification of remains. This was work that the Tribunal was doing last
summer. It is a very time consuming process. Now, the VRIC will take over the
role of contacting local villagers from where we know the victims came and identifying
distinctive articles of clothing and jewelry, anything for recognition or appearance
that the Tribunal can use for identification. Identification is very important
to the Tribunal because it creates the link between where a murder may have
occurred and who the perpetrators may have been.

At the morgue
there are offices for the VRIC staffed by 15 people. They were engaged in training
sessions with local employees who will work with the VRIC to assist in the identification
of victims.

The site that
the Tribunal’s forensics team was working on last week was in Djakova. I believe
that they will finish up there this week. This site is in the city cemetery,
which is located on the western outskirts of Djakova. In there are somewhere
between 40 and 80 bodies which were buried during the period of conflict last
year. The locations of the burials are evident and obvious. The bodies will
be exhumed from those sites, autopsies will be done as well as identification
as most of these bodies were buried without any form of identification other
that a date of the presumed death when they were buried.

At the other
site near the cemetery it is alleged that bodies were dumped in a ravine. We
are attempting, without success so far, to determine whether bodies were dumped
there. At the Djakova site there is a Tribunal forensic team, operating, similarly
to the teams in Croatia and Bosnia. This is a full-time 15 person Tribunal team
operating in Kosovo, in addition to that team, there is a British team working
in Kosovo, there is a Swedish team due to start in the next week and there are
Canadian personnel present in Pristina and more will follow shortly.

In Croatia,
the Tribunal forensic team recently completed its work at Gospic and it is my
understanding that they are now moving to Bosnia to look at sites there. When
we locate other sites of interest in Croatia this team will transfer back to
continue its work there. In Gospic at least 10 bodies were located in a very
difficult site which was essentially a concrete septic tank over which both
soil and concrete had been placed and then a building had been demolished nearby
causing a pile of rubble. Without the very precise information and detailed
location that the investigators had, the team would certainly not have found
the gravesite. The attempts to find other gravesites not far from Gospic have
so far proven unsuccessful, but our investigators will continue to test possible
gravesites in that area, as well as other locations. Once one is found the Tribunal
intends to bring the whole forensics team of 15 persons back to the Croatian



whether there were any indications that the 10 bodies found in the Gospic
gravesite were those of Serb civilians, Risley replied that the most important
part of the Tribunal’s work in Gospic remained to be done, this being the
proper identification of these remains. He added that these bodies were now
at a morgue in Zagreb, where the identification process was being undertaken
by both the Tribunal, as well as university forensics experts. He concluded
that that procedure would take several weeks and when and if any conclusions
were drawn, he would hopefully be able to give an update.

He went on to
say that there were published reports of Serb civilians as well as Croatian
civilians, perhaps killed by the same perpetrators in Gospic. It remained
the task of the OTP to link these bodies with any specific eye witness accounts
of what occurred there. He added that it was important to keep in mind that
there was a period of conflict within Croatia that spread across many different
parts of the country and these bodies had been in the ground for at least
eight years.

to elaborate on the difficulty of finding these sites and the team knowing
exactly where to look, Risley replied that the team relied on eyewitness accounts
and other information. He noted that there had been published reports in the
Croatian media giving the names and faces of persons reportedly believed to
have talked to the Tribunal. He concluded that the way in which the location
was found indicated that the Tribunal had received very good information.

Asked whether
these 10 bodies were the only bodies recovered in Croatia during the last
period of time that the Tribunal team was in the country, Risley replied that
it was.

The OTP greatly
appreciated the cooperation of the Croatian government in the work completed
in Gospic and would not have occurred six months ago, he concluded.

Asked whether
names were contained in the Kordic documents, Landale replied that there were
about seven names, and that they were all from Vitez. Each one was a witness
with a name and a supporting statement to the Kordic case. They were about
one page long, he added.

Asked for
further information on the President’s visit to Croatia, Landale replied that
he was yet to receive a full readout on the meeting with President Mesic.
He added that President Jorda was currently meeting with the Ministers of
Justice, Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Granic in Zagreb. He hoped
to have a full readout on those meetings during the course of the day.

He went
on to say that President Jorda gave a keynote address at the International
Symposium in Opatija yesterday. This was during the second day of the symposium,
which had been devoted entirely to the Tribunal, which was something that
the Tribunal welcomed as a very positive initiative. He added that according
to the information he had received, all the discussions were very positive
and constructive and hopefully signaled a new chapter in the relationship
between Croatia and the Tribunal. On top of other indicators received over
the past months since the new administration arrived, the Tribunal felt quite
optimistic about the relationship between the Tribunal and the new Croatian
administration, he concluded.

Asked how
the Tribunal expected to complete exhumation of 300 sites in Kosovo this year,
Risley replied that the OTP had a very ambitious challenge of attempting to
clear 300 separate sites of reported graves within Kosovo.

The OTP expected
that further international teams would come to work in Kosovo. He added that
rough promises were made by about seven teams so far. Last year the OTP had
a maximum of 14 teams. It was more difficult this year to gain international
attention to the work of the Tribunal in Kosovo and thus more difficult to
get the same countries to provide forensic teams, personnel and skills which
certainly would be necessary in order to cover 300 hundred separate sites.
In the OTP’s favour this year, is the establishment of the morgue, which allowed
sites to be cleared quicker. The morgue was quite large and could handle bodies
from four different teams at the same time. Considering that last year the
OTP did not start work until the end of July the season this year was much
longer. Therefore although ambitious, it was possible, he concluded.

Asked whether
there would be other ongoing Tribunal continued activities in Kosovo this
year, Risley replied that the OTP investigations continued within Kosovo.
The Prosecutor has publicly said even during her visit to Kosovo last October
that the OTP was investigating both Milosevic for crimes committed in Kosovo
as well as the KLA for crimes committed against Serb civilians in 1998 and

Asked for
information on the Prosecutor’s visa request for Belgrade, Risley replied
that, despite a news article the other day that said that the Prosecutor’s
application had been rejected, the OTP had received no communication from
the Belgrade authorities so far.

Asked whether
the OTP believed it would be possible to complete the work with just the seven
teams this year, Risley replied that it was the goal for the OTP to complete
the work this summer. He added however, that experience showed in Bosnia and
Croatia the OTP could return to certain sites next summer or even years later.
The evidence remained with the bodies and as long as they were sufficiently
buried this could be done.

Asked whether
there was an assessment made by the OTP as to whether this could actually
be done, Risley replied that under the number of teams the OTP would be able
to field, which may be more than seven, from now until September, the OTP
believed that although it was an ambitious schedule it could be completed.
The difficult part of making any estimation was arriving at any site and finding
more bodies or a more difficult site than anticipated and it took much longer.
With the use of the morgue, this process was speeded up as it made the work
of the teams in the field more specific.

Asked about
the deadline for the turning over of documents in the Todorovic case, Landale
replied that, according to the information he had so far, the deadline was
‘as soon as reasonably possible’. He added that since then there had been
a motion filed on behalf of the defence seeking clarification as to whether
there was a deadline and exactly what the situation was. He added that further
verification from the Trial Chamber as to what they expected to be done and
in what time frame had been requested.

Asked what
he anticipated the response from the OTP to be, Risley replied that he would
inquire with the Deputy Prosecutor.

He added that
there were some difficulties in the Omarska case yesterday. The Deputy Prosecutor
made it clear this morning that he regretted that the Prosecution team had
failed to make available specific witness documents and testimonies in the
discovery process and that that was regrettable, causing a week to be lost
in terms of presenting the Prosecutor’s case.