|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/SC/1231|
|Release Date: 5 June 2000|
|Prosecutor for International Tribunals Briefs Security Council|
NEW YORK, 2 June (UN Headquarters) -- The Prosecutor for the International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Carla Del Ponte, told the Security Council this morning that an increasingly urgent problem for the Rwanda Tribunal was the length of trials and pre-trial detention faced by most accused.
Briefing the Council on the operation of both Tribunals, Ms. Del Ponte said the trials were complex, the charges were broad and the need to guarantee fairness often conflicted with the need to ensure speedy justice. It was increasingly clear that the existing trial chambers could not cope with the number of trials awaiting determination. To remedy the situation, the Rwanda Tribunal was considering a programme whereby detainees would be sent back to their villages for trials based on ancestral systems. "Gacaca" was a traditional system implemented at a community level, which might even encourage reconciliation, she said.
Regarding last year's intervention in Kosovo by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), she rejected reservations expressed by the representative of the Russian Federation regarding the politicization of the work of the Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia. There was no basis to investigate allegations of crimes by NATO. Although that organization had made some mistakes, it had not deliberately targeted civilians and the Prosecutor’s assessment would be released in the near future.
The Russian Federation’s representative told the Council that the Yugoslavia Tribunal was not helping to normalize the situation in that country and had proven to be destructive for resettlement in the Balkans. The Tribunals had taken an anti-Serb tack and the indictment of Serb leaders antagonized the Serb population and the peace process itself. It was unacceptable that the indictments were being used to press concessions from Serb politicians and to force their obedience.
Several speakers expressed concern over the unwillingness of the authorities in Belgrade to cooperate with the Tribunal. On the other hand, they welcomed growing cooperation with the courts by the Governments of Croatia and Rwanda.
While commending the Prosecutor for her recent visit to Rwanda and Arusha, the representative of Rwanda recalled the pressure mounted on his Government in the Security Council and in various capitals over its suspension last year of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda following its acquittal of an accused official. He also stressed the need for better qualified prosecutors and other staff for the Tribunal.
Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Malaysia, United Kingdom, Argentina, Bangladesh, United States, Netherlands, Canada, China, Jamaica, Mali and France.
Jean-David Levitte (France), Council President, also made a brief statement.
The meeting, which began at 11.45 a.m., adjourned at 2 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing by the Prosecutor for the International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
CARLA DEL PONTE, Prosecutor for the International Tribunal for Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said there was no basis to investigate allegations of crimes committed by personnel and leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during its 1999 bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Although NATO had made some mistakes, it had not deliberately targeted civilians. Details of the Prosecutor’s assessment would be released in the near future.
She said that Belgrade’s unwillingness to cooperate with her Office -- as well as the indictment of President Slobodan Milosevic and other senior Yugoslav officials -- had been an important consequence of the NATO air campaign. The lack of cooperation had severely hampered investigations into complaints involving Serbs living in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which had denied entry visas to her investigators, as well as to herself. The Prosecutor’s inability to gain access to such victims made Yugoslav claims that she was anti-Serb rather hollow.
By contrast, she said, the new Croatian Government was demonstrating a willingness to cooperate with her Office and full cooperation was very close. The Government had recognized the Tribunal's jurisdiction and the Prosecutor's right to investigate incidents that had occurred in Croatia in 1995. It had also recently assisted a forensic investigation and formally agreed on the finalization of the status of the Prosecutor's Office in Zagreb.
She said that left one area where Croatia had been less than forthcoming in its cooperation -- access to sensitive witnesses in Croatia and to documents held or controlled by the Government. There was still important ground to be covered in that respect, but progress was being made.
An increasingly urgent problem for the Tribunal was the length of trials and length of detention faced by most accused. The trials were complex, the charges were broad and the rights of the accused to a fair trial were jealously protected. The need to guarantee fairness often conflicted with the need to ensure speedy justice. It was increasingly clear that the existing trial chambers could not cope with the number of trials awaiting determination. In many national jurisdictions, two remedies were traditionally applied: the release of accused on bail pending trial; and the appointment of more judges to cope with the judicial workload.
She noted that releasing accused on bail was not an available option, particularly when the accused had been detained and surrendered by the Stabilization Force (SFOR). It was not satisfactory to release indictees into a community where the Tribunal could not enforce its own orders without the cooperation of the former States of the former Yugoslavia.
Regarding Rwanda, she said she had been there for three weeks, during which she had met President Paul Kagame and other senior officials. Cooperation between the Government and the Tribunal was now excellent and she had been granted a permanent entry visa.
She said 42 detainees were held in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, while 13 fugitives were still at large, some of them in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Eight indictees had been sentenced, three of them having pleaded guilty, including Georges Ruggiu yesterday. Eight former ministers, four top military officers and three journalists were detained in Arusha. There were 35 detainees awaiting trial.
One problem discovered during her recent mission to Rwanda was that many common graves had not been opened, she said. It was hoped that they would be opened soon with the Government's cooperation. She agreed with President Kagame on the need to give them a dignified burial and hoped that forensic teams in Kosovo would be sent to remove the bodies from the common graves.
She said she had met with survivors of the 1994 genocide whose problems were still very serious. The situation of detainees in Rwanda was also very serious, where 8,000 people were held in conditions that did not allow them even to stretch out in sleep. The Justice Minister was trying to introduce a programme whereby they would be sent back to their villages for traditional trials based on ancestral systems.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that the creation of two ad hoc Tribunals had been an important development in international law. He was pleased to note that the two bodies had evolved into fully operational international courts. Among the commendable developments were the implementation of protective measures for witnesses and counselling and support for the victims. Cooperation and support by States were essential for the work of the Tribunals, especially in apprehension of suspects. Effective execution of arrest warrants was essential for the functioning of the courts, and several suspects had been apprehended in third countries.
Continuing, he expressed dismay at the non-cooperation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and said that his delegation was seriously concerned that some publicly indicted persons still remained at large. More serious efforts should be made to bring them to justice, in order to avoid sending a wrong message to the international community. The continued presence of indicted persons in certain States contributed to the climate of fear and insecurity, particularly as far as return of refugees was concerned. Rectification of that situation would contribute to the normalization of the situation in the countries concerned. The Prosecutor had made a clear appeal for support, and the Council must respond. The lack of cooperation with the Tribunals should be seriously addressed.
Sir JEREMY GRENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that his country was strongly committed to the two Tribunals and supported the work of the Prosecutor. His delegation was pleased with the recent progress, including the arrests in Europe of several suspects. Several important judgements and the progress by the Croatian authorities towards cooperation with the Tribunal should be commended. However, the large number of indictees still at large was a cause of concern, and the lack of cooperation from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was disturbing. As more arrests took place, it was important that both Tribunals be in a position to try them expeditiously. The call for more resources was understandable in that connection. He looked forward to seeing further improvements in the Tribunals’ efficiency. Additional measures should speed up pre-trial and trial procedures.
ARNOLDO LISTRE (Argentina) said his country had welcomed the institution of the Tribunals, despite the scepticism of some. The two bodies had proven to be innovative instruments for the international community. But, while the Tribunals had grown and matured, they continued to face problems and challenges, as had been described in the Prosecutor’s statement.
The Security Council had noted with growing concern that the reluctance of some States to cooperate with the Tribunals was undermining their work, he said. That negative stance was not new and the alarm had been sounded before, but the resistance and lack of cooperation were ongoing. The need to appeal, yet again, for cooperation was regrettable, particularly with regard to the attitude of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. However, Argentina welcomed the positive attitude of Croatia and Rwanda. The Security Council must not remain silent on the situation. It must support the Tribunals and the Office of the Prosecutor, since their problems continued to involve factors over which they had no control.
He asked what had happened to the vacancy rate in the Rwanda Tribunal. What plans were there for staff training progammes and what would be done about trial delays caused by translation problems, unavailability of trial chambers and the abundance of prejudicial questions?
ANWARUL CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) stressed the need for the international community to address the issue of apprehending indicted high-ranking officials and military officers who were still at large. It was an outrage that some indictees were yet to be arrested after five years. In the case of Rwanda, cooperation by African countries in the Great Lakes subregion was commendable and helped efforts against impunity, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
He said that his country also appreciated the cooperation extended to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia by Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. With regard to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the need to facilitate the Prosecutor’s access to victims must be emphasized.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE (United States) said that the issue under consideration was of great importance. The progress reported by the Prosecutor gave the Council a chance to reflect on the new developments, including those in Sierra Leone, for example, for the same principles applied to the situation there as in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Fair prosecution, full accountability and justice were needed everywhere. Last year, a decision had been made in Sierra Leone to elevate the pursuit of peace to a higher level than the pursuit of justice, granting amnesty to Foday Sankoh. He hoped that the Council would find ways to review the situation in Sierra Leone. South Africa was a perfect example of how such issues should be approached.
In Rwanda, the pursuit of justice on both domestic and international tracks was improving, he continued. Those responsible for genocide should be brought to justice, but forgiveness and reconciliation should come from inside. In Rwanda, a so-called “Gacaca system” existed, which took justice out of the courtrooms and gave it to the local communities. He had heard criticism of that in the Western press, but local systems of justice should be respected. The best way to address the issue was to combine international efforts with local justice, which would allow speedier trials. The large caseload could not be handled by a traditional system alone. The pursuit of justice was also tied with the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was not separate from the broader issues occupying the Council.
He said that all the indictees should be returned to Arusha, and support from regional governments was needed for that purpose. It was difficult to imagine the settlement of the situation in the region without regional support. He was particularly pleased that the Prosecutor had mentioned improving the management and speeding pre-trial procedures, for if questions were raised on those issues, it undermined the credibility of the Courts. Better use of resources was needed, while speeding up the procedures. He fully shared the view that Ratko Mladic, Slobodan Milosevic and other people indicted in Europe must be brought to justice for the region to achieve stability. The same applied to the Great Lakes region.
ARNOLD PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said that last November, his delegation had expressed concern over Croatia’s lack of cooperation in transferring documents to the Tribunal. It was satisying that, since then, Croatia had begun cooperating with the Court. The openness and transparency with which the Croatian Government was approaching that matter was commendable. Some problems still remained to be solved, and he hoped that they would be settled in the near future. All focus now shifted to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the Council must condemn Belgrade’s lack of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal.
Following the Prosecutor’s visit to Rwanda, he continued, it was gratifying to learn that the Court’s relations with that country had improved. He was pleased to learn of the recent conviction of George Ruggiu, particularly because during his recent visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo he had learned that poisonous hate broadcasts were “not a thing in the past”. Regarding the “Gacaca system”, he said he was not fully convinced that it was an ideal solution for eliminating the backlog and would be grateful if the Prosecutor further elaborated on that matter. The Tribunals played an important role, for on the basis of their work the international community was learning important lessons. The most important lesson was that impunity was not the right solution to any problem. For that reason, his delegation hoped the United States would overcome its doubts regarding the International Criminal Court.
ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said his country had been a firm supporter of both the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda since their inception and continued to support them. He reiterated the need for full cooperation with the Yugoslavia Tribunal and welcomed the cooperation of Croatia and Rwanda.
GENNADI GATILOV (Russian Federation) noted that the organizational structures of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda did not fully meet the goals for the which the Council had established it. For the six years that it had been prosecuting people responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, it had not had a serious impact in combating those crimes either in Rwanda or in other parts of the world. The slowness of the Tribunal's work could be explained by lack of cooperation by States. Delays resulted from a lack of planning and from the chaotic nature of the Tribunal's activities. Some indictees spent more than a year in custody and others had been provisionally released in a manner that violated international standards. That had been the reason for Rwanda's suspension of cooperation with the Tribunal.
The Russian Federation intended to cooperate with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, he said, but had serious reservations about the politicization of its work and its bias vis-à-vis the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The methods and organization of the Tribunal's work were not in keeping with the aims for which the Council had established it. It was not helping to normalize the situation in that country and had proven to be destructive for resettlement in the Balkans. The Tribunals had taken an anti-Serb tack, demonstrated by the fact that 43 of the indictees were Serbs. The indictment of Serb leaders antagonized the Serb population and the peace process itself. It was unacceptable that the indictments were being used to press concessions from Serb politicians and to force their obedience.
He said that the use of force to hunt down indictees, accusations of military crimes by personnel of the NATO and the illegal acts of the SFOR and the Kosovo Force (KFOR) went against the Tribunal's mandate, all aspects to which the Council must pay serious attention. The decision not to investigate allegations against NATO personnel was premature. It appeared that more fundamental grounds for that decision were not forthcoming. Each allegation must be thoroughly investigated and the Council must be told of the investigation's findings.
CHEN XU (China) expressed hope that the Tribunals would administer justice in an objective way to prevent them from becoming political tools. He said that his delegation shared the view that the Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia should investigate NATO activities in Kosovo, which fell under its jurisdiction. Prosecutor Del Ponte had stated that there was no basis for opening an investigation into the allegations of wrongdoing on the part of NATO, but that statement should be substantiated by evidence.
Turning to Rwanda, he said that the Tribunal there was an effective deterrent against recurrence of atrocities in the future. Any progress in Rwanda would be impossible without cooperation from States, particularly in the extradition of the accused and delivery of witnesses. He hoped that the work of the two Tribunals would promote national reconciliation in the countries concerned, as well as regional peace and stability.
M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said that international cooperation was imperative, for the Tribunals should send an unequivocal message to those who violated the humanitarian law anywhere in the world. It was also imperative that leaders of the groups that participated in the crimes should be among those charged. In Rwanda, all perpetrators should be brought to justice. Effective functioning of the Tribunals must meet with full cooperation of the neighbouring States, and the Council must ensure such cooperation.
Continuing, she said that it was necessary to ensure fairness and impartiality of justice. The Tribunals were seeking high-quality justice in all cases. Although the Tribunals were making efforts to ensure speedy and efficient trials, much remained to be done in that respect. She noted the need for more judges and the use of temporary judges. Credibility of the Tribunals depended on whether they could ensure that the perpetrator were held responsible for horrendous crimes. Justice delayed was justice denied, and it was necessary to bring closure to proceedings, while ensuring the rights of the accused. It was also important to expedite pre-trial and forensic work. For that, the Tribunals needed adequate resources.
MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) said that the Council must shoulder its responsibility fully by providing all required support to the two Tribunals. It must look closely at measures to improve their effectiveness, as had been mentioned by the Prosecutor. Cooperation by States was essential, since the Tribunals did not have their own coercive measures. The sentences they had handed down clearly showed the need for that cooperation, both in bringing indictees to trial and in incarcerating them.
He said that his country had signed a cooperation agreement with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda last year with regard to indictees who may be apprehended in Mali and invited other States to act similarly.
JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said that the Council's policy regarding the Tribunals must be aimed at leaders indicted for crimes, rather than those who had carried out their orders.
He praised the substantive improvement of relations between Croatia and the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, that cooperation highlighted the absence of a similar attitude on the part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. France intended to continue its support for the work of the Tribunals and for SFOR in tracking down and apprehending indictees.
JOSEPH MUTABOBA (Rwanda) recalled with sadness the pressure mounted on his country both in the Security Council and in various capitals last year to bring his Government to its knees over its suspension of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. However, the Prosecutor had done a tremendous job by visiting Rwanda and Arusha and remaining there longer than any of her predecessors. That showed that she meant business.
He stressed the need for better qualified prosecutors for the Rwanda Tribunal, saying that defence lawyers were getting a free ride against their unqualified opponents. Other staff must also be qualified, because even translators could betray justice simply by conveying the wrong translation.
Those in jail had successfully delayed trial by calling witnesses, including relatives, who had left Rwanda and had no intention of returning, he said. Witnesses had been killed after returning from Arusha, yet their families had not been compensated. On the other hand, perpetrators and their relatives were being taken out of the country, allegedly for their safety. Double standards were being practised, he added.
He said that the sentences handed down by the Tribunal were getting smaller, while the guilt of those convicted was the same. How could Georges Ruggiu be sentenced to just 12 years in light of the crimes he had committed? he asked. The Tribunal had not visited Rwanda to acquaint itself with the country and with the scenes of genocide. Rwanda wanted to know why.
Responding to comments and questions, Ms. DEL PONTE supported the idea of regular briefings for the Council, saying that it should be kept abreast of the developments in the delivery of justice. Regarding the Outreach Programme, she said that it was more available in Rwanda than in the Former Yugoslavia. To some extent, that depended on the financial situation, as well as the discretion of the Court Clerk. It was important to hold hearings not only in Arusha, but also in Kigali. The Court was in touch with the representatives of States and with local authorities in order to hold hearings on site. Similar arrangements should be implemented in the former Yugoslavia.
Turning to the sentencing of George Ruggiu, she said that it was important for the indictment to be confirmed. The question of the exact sentence was up to the judges. He had already spent two years in preventive custody, and it was not clear where the remaining 8 years of the sentence would be spent. Regarding the “Gacaca system”, she said that it was really the solution, for a number of detainees had remained without a hearing for several years. The Minister of Justice of Rwanda was very aware of the problem. Gacaca was a traditional system implemented at a community level, which might even encourage reconciliation. Although the mechanism was rather complex, the Minister of Justice had indicated that such a system could be introduced.
The report of the independent group of experts on the work of the Tribunals had full support of the Prosecutor’s Office, she said. However, there was a problem of financing. Regarding the NATO intervention in Kosovo, she could only convey the decision of the Tribunal to the Council. She would make available the materials showing what had motivated the decision. She completely rejected an accusation by the representative of the Russian Federation regarding politicizing of the work of the Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia.
The President of the Council, Mr. LEVITTE (France), said that regular work with the Tribunal would be very useful in the future. Hopefully, there would be another briefing in November. The Council would remain seized of the matter.
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