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|Prosecutor for Former Yugoslavia, Rwanda Tribunals Briefs Security
Council, Emphasizes Need for Cooperation from States
NEW YORK, 10 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council must step in when States did not comply with their duty to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Prosecutor of both Tribunals, Carla Del Ponte, told the Council as she briefed it this morning.
Croatia was withholding cooperation, she continued. It had unilaterally decided that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to investigate its actions in Operation Storm and Operation Flash. But, the power to initiate investigations, bestowed by the Council on the Prosecutor, must be preserved. The judicial process must be protected from the tyranny of political manipulation. The success of the two international criminal Tribunals ultimately depended on the Council’s active support.
As she described her Office's future work, she said the forensic programme in Kosovo could be finished by next year. It was necessary to act quickly before evidence was lost, she stressed. Also, she intended to establish a new financial team to look into freezing fugitives' funds, which she considered corruption money. Also, she said she would report to the Council on Rwanda following her upcoming visit there.
Following the Prosecutor's report, several Council members stressed the need to execute arrest warrants, and expressed concern that accused persons remained at large. In the course of the discussion, some speakers called for greater efforts to bring war criminals to justice, while others stressed that the Tribunals must respect national security and regional stability when carrying out their mandates.
Argentina's representative said since the ad hoc tribunals lacked coercive measures, they relied on the cooperation of States to provide evidence and ensure capture and transfer of persons. The Security Council must act. The credibility of the tribunals and the authority of the Council were at stake. States could not unilaterally suspend their cooperation with the tribunals.
* The 4061st and 4062nd meetings of the Security Council were private meetings.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia must act in strict compliance with international agreements and Council resolutions. While all States must fulfil their international obligations and cooperate with the Tribunal, the arrest of indictees should not be the result of undue coercion on the States involved. Further, the use of sealed indictments must be stopped. Every action to detain someone accused of war crimes must be measured primarily on how it would effect international efforts to stabilize the situation in the region and move the peace process forward. The Tribunal must not be politicized, he stressed.
The representative of the United States expressed concern about Member States failing to cooperate with the Tribunal, in particular, to implement the arrest warrants transmitted to them by the Tribunals. One of the greatest challenges was to gain custody of indictees and, in that regard, Belgrade's attitude was unacceptable. Those indictees not in custody must understand that there was no safe haven for them. He urged the Government of Croatia to comply promptly.
Also this morning, the Council heard from the representatives of France, Canada, United Kingdom, China, Malaysia, Netherlands, Brazil, Gambia, Bahrain, Gabon, Namibia and Slovenia.
The meeting began at 11:24 a.m. and adjourned at 1:05 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing by Carla Del Ponte, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Statement by Prosecutor
CARLA DEL PONTE, Prosecutor for the two Tribunals, said she hoped that during her time in office there would be regular occasions to address the Council. In the less than two months since she took office, she could say she was generally impressed with the work being done by the two Tribunals. At the same time, she faced a daunting task, and required the support of Member States and the Council, which expressed the political will of the international community. The success of the two international criminal Tribunals ultimately depended on the Council’s active support. The two Tribunals were powerful mechanisms for international humanitarian law and would turn to the Council from time to time, when the full weight of the Council was required to be brought to bear on those who refused to honour the international obligations imposed on them by Chapter VII of the Charter.
She then drew attention to the fact that Croatia had withheld cooperation because it unilaterally decided that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to investigate its actions in Operation Storm and Operation Flash. But the power to initiate investigations, bestowed by the Council on the Prosecutor, must be preserved. The judicial process must be protected from the tyranny of political manipulation.
The Council was aware of Croatia’s refusal to cooperate in Operation Storm and Flash, she continued. In connection with a different investigation, her Office would have to undertake an investigation in Croatia, and had requested Croatia to create a secure environment. She hoped the Council’s intervention would not be required for that exercise. She drew that to the Council’s attention to illustrate the constant need for State cooperation, which underpinned the daily operations of the tribunals.
She said she had recently visited the former Yugoslavia, met with high-level United Nations representatives there, visited exhumation sites and found that work was being conducted in a professional manner, even under difficult circumstances. Soon, she would conduct a similar visit to Rwanda. Already, she had been meeting with Rwandan officials in The Hague, and in Brussels. Relations with the Rwanda Government might have been affected by a decision by the Appeals Chamber to dismiss charges against one of the accused. She was concerned about the findings in that case, and regretted that the Office of the Prosecutor had been criticized for not having acted diligently. Until visiting personally, however, she would reserve comments. She would be happy to address the Council at a later date on Rwanda.
Regarding arrests in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where international forces were present, 14 accused had been detained by the Stabilization Force (SFOR) since 1997 -? four this past year, she said. She would work hard to press for increasingly strong action against accused that had not yet been arrested, but there were accused who were beyond the reach of SFOR. The Tribunal could only do so much. It required help from the Council and from governments and all other international institutions. In September, the Council had met with her predecessor and expressed its continued support for the Tribunal. The Tribunal did not seek the Council’s support lightly. In turn, the Council should respond creatively and with its full weight when asked for assistance.
She said much effort of the past year had focused on Kosovo, in view of the need to act quickly before evidence was lost. The last of the international exhumation teams from 14 countries had left recently, and a preliminary report on findings had been presented to her. The Tribunal’s primary task was to gather evidence relevant to criminal charges, rather than compiling a complete list of the deceased. Still, her staff had collected some reliable statistics. While it might be some time before all the evidence was presented before a court, some numbers now might be of use. Reports had been received of 529 gravesites, including sites where bodies were found exposed. Approximately one third of those sites had been examined. In total, 4,266 bodies had been reported to be buried. To date, 2,108 bodies had been exhumed. That figure did not necessarily reflect the actual number of victims, since there was evidence of tampering with graves, and other sites where bodies could not be exhumed. The figures might not tell the whole story, and the forensic evidence would not produce a definitive total by itself.
The pattern of killing was becoming clear, she continued. There seemed to be many small sites. Typically, fewer than 100 persons were buried in one location. She had prepared a detailed list of sites for distribution. More details, such as age, sex and other characteristics, could not be provided yet. Many of the bodies, including those of women and children, were positively indentified, and often the names of the victims were well known. Therefore, the work was a sad process of confirming identification, although that was not the primary objective of her Office.
Currently, her Office was preparing for next year, when it would like to be able to complete the investigation of crime scenes and mass graves, she said. She wanted to complete the forensic examination of all remaining sites as soon as possible. Over 2,000 bodies had been found of the total of 11,334 reported. With the same level of resources next year as this year, the whole forensic programme could be finished in a single season. She intended to continue to seek assistance of States contributing gratis personnel for the remainder of the forensic work next year. The job could not be left only half finished.
She said the Council must step in when States did not comply with their duty to cooperate. She was here to see that the Council intervened on the urgent matter to ensure that Croatia cooperated on the documents, to complete important investigations.
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