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



Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a distinct pleasure to be given the chance to speak here, in such a prestigious institution. It is also a bit of a challenge for a UN Prosecutor to address such an audience. You are all, I assume, experts in something for which the United Nations has not quite gained a brilliant reputation over the past months. Making money is not the goal of any UN institution, and if a UN staff member believes he is going to become rich, he should change his job immediately!

Actually, an international organization tasked with bringing peace, security and justice costs money, and where are the profits? Preventing wars or bringing justice doesn’t fill the UN or anybody’s bank accounts. However, it creates savings. They are difficult to measure in Euros, dollars or pounds, but they are there. How do you quantify the human suffering that did not happen because a conflict was avoided? And the destruction? And the victims’ desire for revenge which is so often the origin of new cycles of bloodshed? Those gains are immaterial, but they are worth more than any company’s yearly earnings!

There is more to it. The UN is dealing with many issues that the private sector is not able to deal with. It is dangerous for companies to invest in a State where there is no stability, where the risk of war is high, and where the rule of law doesn’t exist. This is where the long term profit of the UN’s work resides. We are trying to help create stable conditions so that safe investments can take place. In short, our business is to help you make good business, in the expectation that a stable, reasonably prosperous democracy will be a factor of peace and stability in the world.

Of course, our Tribunal is only a part of the international effort aimed at reconstructing the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Our primary objective is to bring justice, thereby contributing to the reconciliation between peoples who have been torn apart by the wars of the nineties. Between 1991 and 1999, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and finally Kosovo fell into violent conflicts that killed hundreds of thousands and left millions displaced. Previous wars had taken place in the Balkans in the forties, and also in the second decade of the past century. Many fighters of our generation thought they were avenging their fathers, mothers or grandfathers and grandmothers. Why? Because justice was never properly done.

For the first time in the former Yugoslavia, the international community has undertaken with the ICTY to put to trial the main persons responsible for the atrocities committed in the course of a war. By judging the most important war criminals, by satisfying the victims’ need for justice, we hope to finally break the cycles of violence which has erupted with frightening regularity in that part of Europe. Some say an international ad hoc tribunal was not necessary for this. It would have been cheaper and better for the victims to organize war crimes trials locally. Maybe. But the judiciaries in the countries that emerged from the former Yugoslavia are only now, ten years after the crimes, beginning to be capable of conducting fair war crimes trials. The Security Council has tasked us with trying the most senior officials most responsible for the most serious crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia since 1991. This will not be a never ending story. We have designed a completion strategy, which was endorsed by the Security Council. Therefore, all first instance trials should be completed by the end of 2008 and all trials by the end of 2010. We are working intensely to achieve this goal, having six on-going trials simultaneously.


Let us not forget that we are dealing with very high-level people, and these trials are complex. For instance, the case against Slobodan Milosevic covers a period of nearly ten years of crimes. Among the 162 persons indicted by the Tribunal for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, there are numerous former presidents, prime ministers, ministers, and of course many generals. No nation in the world is keen to try its generals. It is much easier to sacrifice simple soldiers or low-ranking officers while protecting the hierarchy. Many of those who have been accused by the Tribunal still enjoy a high popularity in their home nation, and some might even win an election should they be allowed to run! Often, they are perceived as the defenders of the nation against traditional enemies, and, after all, is it not normal that killings, rapes, and a bit of lootings happen during a war? Don’t be mistaken, such perceptions are widespread, and probably not only in the Balkans.

Recent polls show that over a third of the Serbian population believe that no crime was committed in Srebrenica! Srebrenica: 8000 men and boys summarily executed between 11 and 17 July 1995. A genocide, the only genocide in Europe since World War II, this was confirmed by the ICTY in an appeal decision taken in April 2004. Ratko Mladic, the commanding general of the Bosnian Serb forces that carried out the genocide and many other war crimes or crimes against humanity, is still seen as a hero by many Serbs, both in the Serb part of Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia and Montenegro. If he has managed to remain at large for ten years, it is also because he enjoys strong support within State institutions, especially the Army.

Another typical case is Ante Gotovina. This Croatian General was indicted in 2001 for crimes committed against Serbs in 1995. Over 100 were killed and a hundred thousand forced to leave their homes while their houses were looted and destroyed. These crimes were committed in the course of a military operation, undoubtedly legitimate as such, aimed at re-taking the part of the Croatian territory which was occupied by Serb forces. The operation was a success, and Croatians remember it as one of their finest hours. Gotovina was one of the commanders and, quite naturally, he is revered as a hero. The mere mention of the war crimes committed in the course of the operation was taboo for years. The logic was: only enemy forces committed war crimes, defenders were innocent by definition. It is only recently that the government has acknowledged that, yes, crimes were committed, and those responsible for these crimes, including Gotovina, must be tried in The Hague.

For Croatia’s top politicians to make such a statement was quite a difficult step, because it destroys a myth. I guess all nations’ history is based on a number of myths that have become part of their identity. Questioning these myths is painful and maybe also dangerous. Therefore, I am not going to venture into analyzing British history today. But speaking of my own country, Switzerland, it is fair to say that the reassessment of Switzerland’s role in the Second World War a few years ago triggered strong emotional reactions. Why? Because the myth of a small, generous and virtuous country resisting the forces of evil thanks to its brave soldiers was seriously damaged when it appeared that business links were maintained with Nazi Germany and, worse, that many Jews seeking refuge in Switzerland were not allowed in.

James Joyce wrote in Ulysses: "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake". Justice can help bring the true facts to the surface of our conscience. But the human soul seems to be naturally reluctant to accept the truth when it contradicts deeply anchored beliefs. It is more comfortable to live with prejudices than to confront facts.

Therefore, the work of international justice we are trying to perform interferes with essential elements of national identities and collective mentalities. It is not a popular undertaking. No politician was ever elected because he wanted war crimes committed by the national forces to be prosecuted. On the contrary. Those political parties defending the honor of generals and war heroes are likely to score well. War crimes don’t count. Defense of the motherland counts.

Of course, an international tribunal like ours can do nothing without the co-operation of the relevant States. To build our cases, we need access to evidence, to witnesses, and they are mostly located in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Most importantly, once a person has been indicted, he has to be transferred to The Hague. Since we do not have a police force at our disposal, the respective governments have to carry out the arrests. For a head of government to convince the public that this is a good thing for the country is not easy. But for him to make sure that the police will do all it can to carry out the arrest operation may even be dangerous. I remember a former Prime Minister who reacted like this to an indictment I was bringing to him: "Are you crazy? This guy can arrest me, he can arrest you, but I can’t arrest him!"

So, one of our major difficulties was to encourage the governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro to begin co-operating with us. Until about two years ago, their co-operation was never spontaneous, nor systematic, and certainly not satisfactory. Today, we can say that there have been significant improvements. Why is that so?

The prospect of the States of the former Yugoslavia joining the European Union has become more tangible. Whatever many may think on this side of the Channel or in the middle of the Alps, for the average Serbian or Croatian, it is an attractive prospect. The European Union remains understood as a club of rich countries that will bring back prosperity to their country. On the other side, Europe has a vital interest in making sure that, in the Balkans, history does not repeat. Integrating this region into the EU is seen as the best guarantee against future conflicts. The EU committed itself last year in Thessaloniki to eventually accept all countries of the former Yugoslavia. However, a certain number of conditions must be met first, including full co-operation with the Tribunal. Understandably, the EU doesn’t want to welcome one day as a new member a country that might shelter war criminals.

The EU conditionality has been the most effective leverage in finally convincing Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro to work seriously with us. Croatia is the country with which we have developed the best co-operation. All Croats indicted by the Tribunal but one have been surrendered. The Croatian authorities are working intensely on the last remaining fugitive, Ante Gotovina. In particular, they are aggressively investigating the networks protecting him. Since these networks are intimately connected to organized crime, for instance drugs and arms trafficking, the robust operation engaged by Croatia is also indirectly helping to clean the society of its worst criminals. For these reasons, I was able to tell the EU, on Monday, that Croatia is now fully co-operating with us. It seems that my assessment allowed an EU decision to open accession negotiations. However, the Croatian government knows perfectly well that their efforts are being monitored. Should they reduce their efforts to catch Gotovina, the negotiations would slow down and mayeven be suspended.

Serbia and Montenegro is a bit different. The authorities in Belgrade began to work seriously with us later than Croatia and the backlog was much bigger. However, the prospect of beginning talks on a special agreement which is meant to be a first step toward full accession prompted them to deliver to the Tribunal 16 indictees over the past year. There are only six Serbians or Bosno-Serbs at large today, and most of them are in Serbia. Thanks to these positive developments, the EU agreed last Monday to begin talks with Belgrade on this so-called Stabilization and Association Agreement. But it was also made clear to Serbia that the negotiations would not be completed before Karadzic and Mladic are in The Hague. The future will show whether the EU will stay firm till these two most senior persons responsible for the worst war crimes in the former Yugoslavia are in The Hague.

Indeed, it is remarkable how steady the international community has been in its support for the Tribunal. After all, half a decade has passed since the Kosovo war, more than a decade since the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is pressure to move on, forget all that and re-start business as usual. Investors are keen to speed up the EU accession process, because it will give them better security and also better opportunities. Some EU Governments are being pushed by big companies to abandon conditionality because it is perceived as an obstacle to quick and juicy businesses.

No need to say: my view is different. Investing in justice will bring the best dividends. Why?

First, the work of justice alleviated the cost of the human suffering for the hundreds of thousands of families that were directly hit by the war. Of course, the value of satisfying the victims’ need for justice cannot be estimated. But what is certain, is that it prevents the feelings of revenge, which are strong when injustice prevails. Therefore, it contributes to reconciliation.

Second, international criminal justice, like the work of our tribunal, can help prevent new wars or deter the commission of crimes. The cost of the Balkans wars for the local societies amounts to tens of billions of dollars. This includes not only the material destructions, but also the money stolen by the numerous mafias which, in each country involved in the wars, proliferated and became incredibly rich by trafficking all sorts of products, from weapons to oil, and even human beings.

Third, for the international community as well, the price tag has been immense. The UN attempts to stop the war through the sending of peace-keepers were over 3 billion dollars a year. European States had to invest hundreds of millions annually to create the infrastructures for receiving the refugees fleeing the war. The reconstruction costs –again, billions of dollars - are also largely borne by the European Union and the United States.

Fourth, international justice, at least in the case of the Balkans, has obliged the concerned countries to enhance their governance. In particular, the obligation to co-operate with the Tribunal has forced the countries of the former Yugoslavia to work seriously on the reform of the judiciary and of the security forces. A country where the intelligence services and the army are not fully controlled and where the judges react to phone calls or envelopes is not a good place to do business.

And finally, international justice is cheap. The yearly cost of the Tribunal is less than one day of US military presence in Iraq. Let me dare another risky comparison: Our annual budget is well under 10% of Goldman Sachs’ profit during the last quarter. See, I can offer you high dividends for a low investment.

However, the most important return that justice brings is immaterial. Justice needs truth. Trials are about proving facts on the basis of undisputable evidence. My greatest hope is that these facts, all these little pieces of truth that we have been collecting over the years, will slowly but surely shape the collective memory.

Simon Wiesenthal, who spent his life fighting for justice and left us two weeks ago, knew how essential memory is for the future of mankind: "Without memory, he said shortly before his death, mankind is bound to repeat the same mistakes and the same atrocities. Hate may germ everywhere. Other murderers are among us. The hunt must go on. Criminals must not ever be allowed to sleep quietly."

Thank you very much for your invitation and for your attention.