Mr. President, Excellencies,
I am honoured to be given the opportunity one last time in my capacity as Prosecutor of the International Tribunal to address the Council and to thank you for the support you have given me over the past eight years.
I wish the new Prosecutor, Mr. Serge Brammertz, success and trust you will give him the support he will need to accomplish his mandate.
Mr. President, Excellencies,
You will have received my written assessment on the Completion Strategy of 15 November 2007. Since the situation remains unchanged in most areas covered in the report, I will focus on the most important topic - cooperation provided by Serbia as it relates to the search for remaining fugitives. Serbia's cooperation is an issue that remains essential to the work of the Office of the Prosecutor and its ability to fulfill its mandate in accordance with Security Council resolutions and the Completion Strategy that was endorsed by this Council.
What I am about to tell you may sound very familiar. Two years ago, I told this Council that the Serbian Government had raised expectations that Ratko Mladic would be arrested soon. However, despite its declared commitments, I reported that Serbia failed to take action to arrest and transfer the fugitives and described the shortcomings in the plans to search for fugitives. Today, the situation remains exactly the same.
Six months ago, I was here before you, cautiously optimistic that after 12 years, we might finally see Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic in our custody. Unfortunately, Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and two other accused are still at large, and following my last visit to Belgrade, I have to say my optimism has waned considerably. It is true that we have resolved some of the remaining issues in relation to access to documents and archives and I sincerely hope that problems of that nature are now behind us. In contrast, there has been too little progress and commitment on the issue of fugitives and too few concrete steps have been taken to arrest them.
My Office has invested great efforts to secure the transfer of persons indicted by the International Tribunal. We have come a long way. Ninety-one individuals were brought into our custody during my mandate. Of 161 persons initially indicted, only four remain at large. However, as I must always repeat, it is a stain on the International Tribunal's work that two individuals indicted for genocide and responsible for the worst crimes committed in Europe since the Second World War are still fugitives. The fact that Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic are still at large undermines the very idea of international justice.
Earlier this year I had high hopes that there was a breakthrough in Serbia and that we would soon, finally, see the arrest of the remaining four fugitives. The newly established government took a more positive stance towards cooperation with the Office of the Prosecutor. Shortly after being appointed, it stated that cooperation with the Tribunal was one of its top priorities and took a number of important steps towards achieving this goal. The Government established the National Security Council which now oversees cooperation with the International Tribunal and the search for remaining fugitives. Serbia played a significant role in the arrest of Zdravko Tolimir and Vlastimir Djordjevic, who were transferred shortly before my address to the Security Council. Zdravko Tolimir has even repeatedly said in court that it was in fact Serbia and not the entity of Republika Srpska that arrested him. I assessed these as positive steps and said that these arrests demonstrated Serbia's ability to cooperate with the Tribunal. This is why I thought that Serbia might actually achieve full cooperation by arresting and transferring Ratko Mladic, even if the authorities were unwilling to publicly acknowledge such an arrest.
July and August passed without any visible results and I became concerned. In September, I returned to Belgrade and, in order to assist the efforts of the authorities in Serbia, I agreed to commit Tribunal resources to assist in the search for fugitives. Since then, a senior representative of my Office travels to Belgrade every week, attends high level inter-agency meetings and closely observes the efforts in the search for fugitives. We have also continued to encourage and intensify cooperation between all those services engaged in the search for the fugitives in the region.
To demonstrate my own commitment to the cooperation, since my appointment as Prosecutor, I have been to Belgrade 20 times. Four visits took place in the past six months. My team and I have done everything in our power to assist Serbia in fulfilling its international obligations. Serbia still has not done its part.
Since June, while communications have improved, leadership and coordination between the two principal security services in charge of the search for fugitives remain problematic. There are serious deficiencies in the leadership that is supervising the security services. Decisions taken at the higher level are not always followed up by these services. Specific information transmitted from my Office is not always acted upon, properly checked or expeditiously processed. Important operational decisions are not implemented or are implemented too slowly or postponed indefinitely, for reasons which are not always clear. Let me give a very specific example. The Serbian authorities refused to conduct even the most basic investigative procedures, such as conducting a search of the residence of a relative of a fugitive out of concern for political repercussions. The civilian intelligence service is unwilling to cooperate more closely with its military intelligence counterpart and continues to refuse to provide full and comprehensive reports. There is no strategy or proper analysis which is why actions taken are unsystematic, not well prepared and uncoordinated.
Despite the Serbian authorities' declared commitment to fully cooperate with my Office and improved procedures, there is no clear roadmap, no clear plan in the search for fugitives, no serious leads and no sign that serious efforts have been taken to arrest the fugitives. There are, of course, individuals who work hard on these issues. However, this is not a job for any one individual - this is a job that requires the full commitment of the State and of all of its relevant institutions. Unfortunately, we have seen that level of commitment only in words, not in deeds. I cannot deny that steps are taken, but they are slow and inefficient - they definitely do not match the urgency of the moment. In short, there is no full cooperation with my Office.
For several years immediately after the war, the responsibility for arresting the Tribunal's indictees was with the international forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina who, in the purported interest of a fragile peace, failed to arrest them. It is no secret that both Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic have been repeatedly sighted in recent years in Serbia but the authorities failed to take action. I have reliable information that Radovan Karadzic spent time in Belgrade, using his own name, as late as 2004. I have already spoken about negotiations with Ratko Mladic last year and I have reported extensively that another fugitive, Goran Hadzic, was assisted in his escape in 2004. Although Serbia has the capacity and the know-how, it has repeatedly failed to act. I believe that serious structural deficiencies in the Serbian approach as well as wilful obstruction of cooperation with the International Tribunal lie behind this failure to arrest those most responsible for the most heinous of crimes. I urge the authorities in Serbia to take action because it is now high time to take the necessary steps that would lead to the arrest of the fugitives.
For sure, Serbia's representatives will argue the contrary. They will say that Serbia has done a great deal and should therefore be given unconditional support immediately. They will say that Serbia has transferred many indictees to the International Tribunal. What they fail to say is that most of them have agreed to voluntarily surrender to the International Tribunal. The Serbian authorities thought they could persuade Ratko Mladic to do the same. They were negotiating with him in the spring of 2006 and they knew his exact whereabouts. And yet, they chose not to arrest him.
I urge the international community to seriously address this issue. I ask in particular the European Union Member States and the European Union's Commission to maintain their principled position by insisting on Serbia's full cooperation with the International Tribunal as a condition in the EU pre-accession and accession process. Let me be clear: full cooperation with the International Tribunal signifies the arrest and transfer of Ratko Mladic. EU conditionality has in recent years been the most effective tool to obtain the transfer of ICTY fugitives. I am convinced that the arrest of the remaining four fugitives will only be achieved if this policy is upheld.
Mr. President, Excellencies,
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has achieved a great deal. It has accomplished most of its goals and has paved a wide and solid road for international justice. For this, we have to thank the highly dedicated and committed staff of the Office of the Prosecutor and the International Tribunal as a whole. And yet, I will leave this institution with a feeling of disappointment. I am disappointed because of commitments that were not honoured and the legacy that may be left behind for the many victims who will not see justice. It is for them that the International Tribunal was established by the Security Council to try those who are still at large. Let us not by our failure to act, give them reason to feel that any stone was left unturned in the pursuit of justice for those most responsible for the terrible crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia.
I therefore hope this Council and the international community will continue to provide the critical support the International Tribunal will need during these coming crucial years and that international justice will prevail.
I agreed to an extension of my mandate in order to complete some unfinished business: arresting Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. I now leave this unfinished business to my successor. I hope that he will not come before you again and again repeating the same words on the same topic - Serbia's cooperation and the arrest of fugitives.