Posts Tagged ‘Carla Del Ponte’


March 22, 2007 1 comment

“Until it resolves (its own) war crimes and until it stops treating them as heroes, Serbia does not have the intelligence to enter the EU… a Serbia that protects war criminals must not take a single step forward.” Chief UN War Crimes Prosecutor

Carla Del Ponte in a conversation for the Slovenian Ljubljana Dnevnik expressed that she was against giving in to Serbia in its integration process.

Carla Del Ponte - Chief UN War Crimes Prosecutor“Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic are the most responsible for the crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia… Restarting negotiations (with Serbia) would be a very poor message for Belgrade. Without the arrest of Karadzic and Mladic, without total cooperation with the Court, it would be the wrong idea” said Chief UN War Crimes Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in the conversation.

“Until it resolves (its own) war crimes and until it stops treating them as heroes, Serbia does not have the intelligence to enter the EU. They do not have the manners to enter the EU” – said Carla Del Ponte.

She added that she was very critical of the thoughts of the Slovenian minister of foreign affairs, Dimitri Rupel, that they should not make too strict criteria for Serbia because it is a country important for stability in the west Balkans.

“When I heard your minister talk about restarting the negotiations with Serbia, I was shocked. He knows that is sending false messages. Of course we all want Serbia to enter Europe. Good. However a Serbia that protects war criminals must not take a single step forward. We can not accept that, I think that neither can your minister”, said Del Ponte.

She added that she does not even want to think about what will happen if Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are not arrested by the end of the current open proceedings in the Court.

“Mladic and Karadzic need to be arrested this year, if possible before September, whilst I am still here. What if that does not happen? The decision will have to be made by the UN Security Council.

If the arrest happens before the Court closes its doors, they will have to extend its mandate.

If they are not arrested by 2011, when the appeal proceedings will be closed – and I do not even want to think about that – in that case the UN Security Council would have to make a decision that somebody should give them a trial”, said Del Ponte.


March 16, 2007 Comments off


The Chief United Nations War Crimes prosecutor slammed Europe’s “muted” response to a landmark ICJ ruling.

Carla del Ponte, Chief UN War Crimes ProsecutorCarla Del Ponte said the response to the judgment, that found Serbia failed to prevent genocide at Srebrenica, “could undermine the fight for international justice,” The Associated Press reported.

Carla Del Ponte cited the ruling finding Serbia could have prevented the massacre of Bosniaks in Srebrenica and that it should have punished its perpetrators.

The ICJ court (International Court of Justice) also faulted Serbia for failing to turn over one of the architects of the massacre, General Ratko Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

But the ruling absolved Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide due to lack of evidence.

Srebrenica Massacre, Genocide of over 8,000 Bosniaks. July 11, 1995.“The response of the international community, and especially the presidency of the European Union, to this ruling appears to be quite muted,” Del Ponte said in statement.

Del Ponte said that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana issued a statement after the February 26 ruling which “made no mention whatsoever of the fact that Serbia was found in violation of the Genocide Convention.

Instead, he applauded the fact that there is no collective punishment and that the highest tribunal in the world has closed that page.”

Del Ponte added that Germany – current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency – made a similar statement.

Srebrenica Massacre, Genocide of over 8,000 Bosniaks. July 11, 1995.Del Ponte repeatedly has accused Belgrade authorities of not doing enough to arrest Mladic, who is thought to be hiding out somewhere in Serbia. Karad¾iæ’s whereabouts are unknown.

Del Ponte said she was concerned that neither fugitive would be arrested and brought to justice before the court is scheduled to be dismantled in 2010.

“This is truly a potentially devastating development given the tribunal’s completion strategy,” Del Ponte said, adding that she was “worried that we will never see Mladic and Karadzic in our custody. That would have a devastating impact on international justice and on our battle against impunity.”

Srebrenica Massacre, Genocide of over 8,000 Bosniaks. July 11, 1995.The representatives of authority and political parties which were today in Srebrenica, think that the Municipality should have the status of a district, be excluded from Republika Srpska jurisdiction and put under BiH jurisdiction. The same as Brcko district, over which, no agreement as to whom it should belong, was reached while the Dayton Peace Accord was being signed.

At the meeting which was organised by Srebrenica Municipality head, Abdulrahman Malkic, present were members of BiH Presidency Haris Silajdzic and Zeljko Komsic, Beriz Belkic, BiH Parliament Speaker, Adil Osmanovic, Vice President of Republika Srpska, President of Democratic Action Party, Sulejman Tihic and Zlatko Lagumdzija, president of Social Democrat party, as well as ambassadors of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Palestine and Libya, and representatives of international organisations.

The conclusions of the meeting were formulated in 12 points. A team was formed which will co-ordinate the conclusions and the demands of the Steering Committee.

To remind ourselves, the Steering Committee which was formed by returnees to Srebrenica, announced mass exodus on 14 of March, if Srebrenica is not excluded from Republika Srpska, following the judgement of ICJ. However, Collective emigration of Bosniaks from Srebrenica was postponed for April 16, the Initiative committee and co-ordination team for demanding special status of this municipality decided.

The Initiative committee expressed regret for non-appearance of European diplomats to the Srebrenica meeting, and condemned non-attendance of RS representatives as well as their threats directed to genocide victims.

Related readings:

1. Politics and Justice don’t mix

2. Perversed Judgment

3. ICJ Ruling, Bosnia vs Serbia, Dangerous Precedent

4. ICJ Rules Serbia Guilty of Not Preventing Genocide


March 6, 2007 3 comments

Our Editorial Analysis of ICJ’s Recent Ruling: Bosnia vs Serbia

1. Lack of evidence does not absolve Serbia from direct responsibility for Genocide; ICJ’s politicized / compromised verdict will collapse under the burden of proof.

2. ICTY Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte – evidence for Serbia’s direct involvement in genocide exists and will be used in case against Ratko Mladic, when he is brought to justice; the international conflict, Serbia vs Bosnia, proven at least 5 times.

3. The judges had demanded an unrealistically high standard of proof against Serbia in a clearly compromised ruling which awarded perpetrators of war in Bosnia.

4. Law against Srebrenica genocide denial sought in Bosnia, while Bosnian and Serbian politicians continue to deny Srebrenica Genocide.

5. ICJ’s verdict is not final. Bosnia-Herzegovina has a legal right to restart proceedings against Serbia with new evidence.

6. Mothers of Srebrenica Genocide victims condemn UN Chief Prosecutor for making deal with Belgrade, which prevented key evidence linking Belgrade with direct responsibility for Genocide to be used during ICJ proceedings against Serbia.

On February 26, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague found that Serbia has violated its obligation under the Genocide Convention to prevent genocide in Srebrenica and that it has also violated its obligations under the Convention by having failed fully to co-operate with the International Criminal Court. The ICJ also surprisingly ruled there was not enough evidence to prove Serbia’s responsibility for genocide during the Bosnian war.

Serbia, in its defense brief, argued that the Genocide Convention does not provide for the responsibility of states for acts of genocide. But on this key point, the ICJ ruled against Belgrade. This is the first time that an international court ruled that a state can – in fact – commit genocide.

ICJ also ruled that genocide did occur at Srebrenica, when over 8,000 Bosniak men and underage children were massacred in 1995, at the hands of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) who was supported by Belgrade, both financially, politically, and militarily. Unlike in World War II with regard to Europe’s Jews, there was no Wannsee Conference in Belgrade to decide on the implementation of a “final solution” for Bosniaks. Or if there was, the evidence was apparently missing or not presented to the ICJ. Paper trail is easy to destroy. All it takes is a paper-shredding machine. As one Serbian friend of our blog pointed out to us in his email correspondence: “There was more than enough time for Serbia to destroy evidence linking her to direct responsibility for Genocide.”

On February 15, 2007 – Chief UN War Crimes Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, made a very important statement about (still unused) evidence linking Belgrade with direct responsibility for genocide, quote:

“You may wonder why my office is so keen to have access to the personnel file and full record for Ratko Mladić? Because the file can speak for itself and show that Ratko Mladić was not an outcast, not a lunatic who went on a rampage in Bosnia to fulfill his crazy ideas. No. He was a senior officer of the Yugoslav army on duty in Bosnia as commander of VRS; he was promoted twice during the war with highest marks in his dossier, the full approval of the Belgrade military and political leadership and with very generous remuneration. If, for a moment, you combine this with the facts from the ground, known to the whole world, and reported to Belgrade – you have the fact established beyond any doubt – and that is that Belgrade was directly involved in the war in Bosnia. And later? Belgrade organized comfortable hiding places for Ratko Mladić in Serbia, so he can evade international justice. And where he is now? He is still in Serbia. Nothing was done to stop Mladić or his associates; nothing was done to punish him or his associates.”

As Martin Shaw (professor of international relations and politics at the University of Sussex, where he teaches on the MA in war, violence and security) concluded:

“The world court’s decision to clear Serbia of genocide in Bosnia is an exercise in denial…. The international court of justice judgment on Serbia’s role in Bosnia is narrow, conservative and perverse…. Yet the court immediately adds: ‘It is true that there is much evidence of direct or indirect participation by the official army of the FRY, along with the Bosnian Serb armed forces, in military operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the years prior to the events at Srebrenica.’ If those operations did not involve genocide, as the court rules, the Serbian-Yugoslav army and state could not have been guilty of participation in it…. The court therefore limits Serbia’s guilt to its failure to try to prevent the genocidal massacre taking place, and to help apprehend the perpetrator, Ratko Mladic, indicted by the ICTY. The former is a curious finding, since if Serbian leaders were really in a position to influence the Bosnian-Serbian army not to massacre the Muslim men of Srebrenica, that implies a degree of knowledge and influence that suggests complicity in the massacre – something which the Court denies.” (Sources: and The Guardian)

As Dr. Sahib Mustaqim Bleher – in his Genocide Politics op/ed – pointed out:

“For the court to find that Serbia was responsible for the horrible crimes committed during the Bosnian conflict and that reparations were to be paid would set a dagerous precedent under which reparations might subsequently also be sought by the Palestinians or Lebanese against the State of Israel or Iraqis and Afghans against the US and UK. To ignore the evidence of a genocide, on the other hand, would give a green light to any group of people furthering their political agenda through the use of terror. As courts frequently do, the International Court of Justice came up with a compromise. They declared that the massacre of Bosniaks at Srebrenica (under the “watchful” eyes of UN observers, by the way) was genocide, but that Serbia was not directly responsible as a state. They found that Serbia didn’t do enough to stop genocide from happening, but found no evidence that they directly ordered the crime. The countries dominating the UN may have saved their own skin by this ruling, but it compounds an already complex issue even further.”

Genocide is not a question of how many people died during war – it’s rather a question of do those responsible for killings have a specific intent to destroy a specific ethnic or religious group, which is extremely complicated to prove on an individual level and almost impossible to prove on a state level.

The ICTY never got round to dealing with the question of whether rump Yugoslavia was responsible for the genocide, mainly because the key figure, former President Milosevic, died before his trial ended. According to the statement by Chief UN War Crimes Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, to the Security Council on June 7 2006, the Prosecution has proven an international armed conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina no less than five times.

The judges refused to declare Serbia, whose late President Slobodan Milosevic paid and directed the Serb forces, guilty of genocide because they did not have absolute proof that Serbia had ordered the killings. Had the late Slobodan Milosevic been convicted of any of 66 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague, a key link tying Belgrade to a policy of genocide in Bosnia might have been established. But since Milosevic cheated justice by dying in March 2006 with his trial incomplete, there was no time to convict him.

The international community could just as easily be found guilty of failing to prevent Genocide in Srebrenica (but they appear to have immunity); particularly the Netherlands, whose soldiers were charged with securing the safety of the civilians of Srebrenica, which was declared by the UN in 1993 as a safe haven and demilitarized zone. Instead, the soldiers were overtaken by Bosnian Serb forces, disarmed and made to watch as the men and boys were separated from the women and taken off to be summarily executed. The Dutch soldiers were later awarded medals by their government for their courage in battle.

A former chief judge of the U.N.’s Yugoslavia tribunal and later the chairperson of the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, Antonio Cassese, immediately protested the ICJ’s decision in London’s The Guardian by reminding the Court that:

“…the massacre was prepared in detail and took place over the course of six days (between July 13 and 19). Is it plausible that the Serbian authorities remained in the dark while the killing was in progress and reported in the press all over the world? It seems far more reasonable to believe that Serbia’s leaders were informed about what was going on, and that, despite this, Serbia’s military, financial and political assistance to Mladic was never interrupted.”

Antonio Cassese argued that the judges had demanded an “unrealistically high standard of proof” before finding Serbia “legally complicit” in the genocide of Srebrenica. In his separate response in The Guardian, he pointed out:

“As the court’s vice-president said in his dissenting opinion: ‘The court refused to infer genocide from a ‘consistent pattern of conduct’, disregarding in this respect a rich and relevant jurisprudence of other courts.'”

There were eyewitness of many trucks loaded with weapons that were coming from Serbia to the ethnically clean territory controlled by Bosnian Serbs forces. The video picture that shows the killing of Srebrenica civilians by the Serbian Special Forces (the Scorpions) could not be accepted as the evidence because Serbian leaders declared that the Scorpions were a paramilitary group that were not supported from Serbian state institutions (pretty lame excuse that worked). In 1999, the Scorpions were absorbed into the anti-terror unit of the Serbian Interior Ministry – an important fact in light of the court’s apparent lack of evidence. Ratko Mladic, war-time General in Bosnian Serb Army that occupied Srebrenica at July 1995, was on the salary list of the Serbian Ministry of Defense until 2005 – interestingly, this was not a quite valid evidence of Serbian involvement in the Srebrenica Genocide.

The court ordered Serbia to issue a parliamentary declaration condemning the Srebrenica massacre, and to step up the effort to arrest Mladic. Serbia is unlikely to meet any of those court orders satisfactorily, especially with Srebrenica genocide denial being promoted on a state level. The country’s President, Boris Tadic, has urged the parliament to pass a motion condemning the Srebrenica massacre but the far-right Serbian Radical party, which won a third of the vote at the last month’s elections, claims that the Srebrenica genocide is an invention of Serbia’s enemies and has vowed to block any motion to condemn it. The Serbian Republic’s Prime Minister Milorad Dodik has also stated that Srebrenica massacre “was not a genocide, although it was a terrible crime.”

Based on the Court’s judgement, there is little hope that current allegations of genocide in Darfur and long time allegations of genocide in Armenia could be proven against the governments of Sudan and Turkey.

Survivors of genocide responded to ICJ’s ruling by holding peaceful demonstrations in Sarajevo and other cities of Bosnia-Herzegovina, including Zagreb (Croatia) and Hague (Netherlands).

“Had we, Muslims, been Christians, neither the aggression nor the genocide would have happened to us!” said Bakira Hasecic, rape victim and the president of NGO Women Victims of War.

Survivors sought creation of laws that would criminalize Srebrenica Genocide denial – which is widespread in Serb-part of Bosnia-Herzegovina and even promoted by high-level Serbian and Bosnian-Serb politicians and leaders, most notably Republika Srpska’s Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and Serbian government ultra-nationalist politicians.

Victims of genocide also sought proclamation of Srebrenica and Zepa as special political districts, which would not belong to the Bosnian Serb entity, where genocide was committed. They also sought abolishment of Bosnian Serb entity which was founded on ethnic cleansing and genocide of Bosniak pre-war majority.

It is no coincidence that the international community seeks to appease Belgrade in advance of its planned announcement of independence for Kosovo, for which it needs at least a quiet nod from Serbian authorities. It was just another in a series of compromises in the context of political appeasements. Earlier this month, the EU announced that it would restart integration talks with Serbia despite the fact that Belgrade has not demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with the UN’s war crimes tribunal.

Legal representative of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sakib Softic, was a bit more optimistic by stating for Banja Luka Nezavisne that:

“We don’t have to be disapointed as a result of ICJ judgment. First time in the history of the world, one state has been found legally responsible for violating Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In case we collect new evidence that proves Serbia had an intention to committ genocide, we have a period of 10 years to start new proceedings at the ICJ.”

As a result, mothers of Srebrenica Genocide victims who are active in the NGO Association Women of Srebrenica condemned Chief UN Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, for making deal with Belgrade in which key evidence linking Belgrade with direct responsibility for Srebrenica Genocide could not be used during ICJ proceedings against Serbia. They stated that Carla Del Ponte and the Hague Judges deserve their place at the Wall of Shame that is planned to be built next Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Potocari. (sources: Avaz, March 2nd, 2007)

Chicago-based association, Answer to Genocide, recommended February 26 to be marked as the World’s Day of Shame.

Read more:

1. ICJ Rules Serbia Guilty of Not Preventing Genocide
2. ICJ Ruling – Bosnia vs Serbia, Dangerous Precedent
3. ICJ – Perverse Judgment


August 22, 2006 7 comments


“Defenceless men and boys [were] executed by firing squads, buried in mass graves and then dug up and buried again in an attempt to conceal the truth from the world.” – Carla Del Ponte, Aug 21, 2006. – Opening statement in Srebrenica Genocide trial.

The trial of seven top Bosnian Serb military officials charged over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of over 8,000 Muslims was to resume in the UN court here, in the biggest ever joint trial for war crimes committed during the Balkan wars in the 1990s. (From top L) Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara, Drago Nikolic, Ljubomir Borovcanin and Vinko Pandurevic (from bottom L) Vinko Pandurevic, Radivoje Miletic and Milan Gvero.Intro: Carla Del Ponte, the UN’s chief prosecutor, said in her opening statement: “Words cannot convey the magnitude of the crimes committed and the suffering of the victims. Now the name Srebrenica is infamous. Unfortunately, two men who should be sitting in this courtroom are still at large. I am talking, of course, about Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.” Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, and his military commander General Mladic are accused of ultimate responsiblity for the slaughter. Ms Del Ponte blamed the Serbian Government for their absence, accusing it of a scandalous refusal to arrest General Mladic, who is seen by many Serbs as a national hero. Conspicuous by their absence are wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, and his generals, Ratko Mladic and Zdravko Tolimir – all of whom are still on the run.
Carla Del Ponte, the U.N.'s Chief Crimes ProsecutorThe U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague has resumed the trial of seven former Bosnian Serb military and police officers charged for their alleged role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre

The joint trial of the seven, five of whom are accused of genocide, is the biggest at the tribunal, which has combined their cases as it tries to complete its work by 2010. The trial, which started last month, got under way in earnest on Monday.

Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte used her opening statement today to criticize Serbia’s government for failing to arrest and extradite fugitive war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic. She said it is “inexcusable” that the former top commander of Serb forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina has not been detained.

Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic are the most wanted fugitives of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, indicted by the Hague-based court for the siege of Sarajevo and masterminding the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Mladic is thought to be hiding in Serbia.

Kamenica: one of Srebrenica massacre mass graves.Serb forces killed over 8,000 Bosniaks, mostly men and boys, after capturing the town, which the United Nations had declared a United Nation’s safe haven.

Five of the former officers, Ljubisa Beara, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Vinko Pandurevic, Drago Nikolic and Vujadin Popovic, face various charges, including genocide and extermination. The two other men on trial, Radivoje Miletic and Milan Gvero, are charged with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of wars including murder, persecution, forcible transfer and deportation. They have already appeared individually before the court and pleaded not guilty.

Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, told the court that Gen Mladic “should be on trial in this case”.

“Now the name Srebrenica is infamous … invariably associated with the most heinous crimes,” she added.

Kamenica: one of Srebrenica massacre mass graves.She repeated her criticism of Belgrade for failing to deliver him to the tribunal and promised that he and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic would eventually be brought to trial.

“It is absolutely scandalous that they have not been caught. Serbia is fully capable to arrest them, but has refused,” she said.

Prosecutor Peter McCloskey said that Mladic and Karadzic plotted to force out the Bosniak population and that the armed forces were instructed accordingly.

“Mladic and Karadzic made what I refer to as the supreme act of arrogance and impunity and set out the plan to deal with Muslims in eastern Bosnia,” he said.

“Men and boys were put in horrendous conditions … they were beaten, starved and killed in two days,” he said referring to July 1995, after the fall of the enclave.

“They were marked for death … There was an organized mass execution going on,” he added.

Bosnian Muslim woman asks U.N. soldier for help to prevent Srebrenica massacre. U.N. stood helpless while over 8,000 men and boys (children) were massacred by Serb forces on July 11th 1995.The EU suspended talks on Serbia’s hopes of accession in May because of its failure to hand Gen Mladic to the UN war crimes tribunal.

Last month, the Serbian prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, submitted a plan for Gen Mladic’s arrest which the EU welcomed.

Ms Del Ponte told the court that the seven men in the dock were “among the most responsible” for the massacre of over 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the UN-declared safe haven.

The trial at The Hague – which is expected to last more than a year – started last month with legal arguments and began its main phase today. It is the tribunal’s latest attempt to hold senior officials responsible.

It was “beyond reasonable doubt” that Bosnian Serb forces committed “forcible resettlement of the population, mass murders and genocide,” del Ponte stated.

The accused sat in silence and betrayed no emotion as Ms Del Ponte described the Srebrenica massacre as “the final phase of a comprehensive criminal plan to permanently erase the Muslim population of Srebrenica”.

She told the court: “It is difficult, if not impossible to comprehend the horror inflicted on the inhabitants.

“Defenceless men and boys [were] executed by firing squads, buried in mass graves and then dug up and buried again in an attempt to conceal the truth from the world.”

She said many victims had been bound and blindfolded “to make the murder easier for the executioners”.

Bodies continue to be found in mass graves. Last week, forensic experts said they had exhumed the remains of more than 1,000 victims from a single grave near the village of Kamenica (read more here ).

Many of the victims had had their arms bound with cloth or plastic and bullets were mixed with the bones.

The skeletons were badly damaged, indicating that the bodies had been dug up from elsewhere and dumped into a second grave as Bosnian Serb forces attempted to cover their tracks.

The Hague-based court has staged only a handful of trials dealing with the Srebrenica atrocities, including the case against the former Serb leader, Slobodan Milosevic, which was aborted after his death in March.

The two men accused of masterminding the killings – General Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic – are the tribunal’s most wanted war crimes suspects.

The tribunal has already convicted six men over Srebrenica. Gen Mladic’s deputy, General Radislav Krstic, is serving a 35-year prison term for aiding and abetting genocide and Colonel Vidoje Blagojevic is appealing against an 18-year sentence for complicity in genocide.

The indictments of the seven men were combined last year into a single indictment. They face allegations ranging from genocide to murder and persecution and are being defended by more than a dozen lawyers.

The suspects sat today in the packed courtroom, their faces betraying no emotion as they listened through earphones to a translation of Ms Del Ponte’s opening statement.

At the end of her speech to the court, Ms Del Ponte vowed that the seven suspects would not be the last to face justice for the Srebrenica genocide.

Gen Mladic, Mr Karadzic and others evading capture “will be arrested,” she said.

“They will be brought to The Hague and they will be tried for their crimes. This is our pledge to the international community and the women … who mourn their losses and all victims of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.”

The prosecution sought to link former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to the Srebrenica massacre but the case was closed without judgment after his death in March.

The massacre in the Bosniak enclave in eastern Bosnia is Europe’s worst atrocity since the Holocaust.


June 11, 2006 2 comments

Stand Off at the Security Council

Prosecutor hits back at judges for changing rules and slams Serbia, Russia and UNMIK over cooperation. [ read background here ]
By Janet Anderson and Michael Farquhar in The Hague (TU No 456, 9-Jun-06)
New battle lines have been drawn between the judges and the prosecutor in The Hague over methods to speed up trials as the deadline for completion of the tribunal’s work looms.
In separate addresses to the United Nations Security Council this week, the president of the tribunal Fausto Pocar and the Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, agreed on the need for urgent measures to enable the tribunal to substantially streamline judicial processes.
But amendments to the tribunal’s rules adopted at a plenary session of the judges just a few days before the report to the UN was due, which give them the right to direct the prosecution to select which counts of the indictment should be taken to trial, have drawn direct fire from the prosecutor.
Del Ponte vehemently challenged the new rule as a challenge to her independent authority [read here]. She said it would be “impossible to arbitrarily cut and slice cases”, and suggested it would lead to “impunity for certain crimes”.
She said she would interpret the changes as “purely advisory”.
The proposed rule change has been welcomed by some legal experts. Michael Scharf, former state department attorney and professor of law in Ohio, has consistently criticised the prosecution for including too many charges against individuals.
“[The tribunal] is not a truth commission,” he told IWPR, saying it shouldn’t be trying to provide a “detailed account of everything” that occurred.
The prosecution should only file indictments for the most serious crimes where the evidence is strongest, he says.
“These ‘exemplary charges’ will provide ‘snapshots of evil’…sufficient for the objectives of international justice,” said Scharf.
Edgar Chen, who observed trials in The Hague for the Coalition for International Justice, points out that judges already have considerable powers. They can confirm an indictment; dismiss counts after evidence has been presented, and decide on the basis of relevance what evidence they need to hear – all of which, he says, “bolster judicial economy”.
But the prosecution, he says, have to keep other audiences in mind too when drawing up indictments – “the victims, [and those] in the region who do want to see accountability for a vast array of alleged crimes”.
Anton Nikiforov, spokesperson for the prosecutor, explained to IWPR that the prosecution did not expect that the new amendments would affect two big multi-accused indictments in the high profile cases about to begin in the next few weeks.
They include nine high-ranking Bosnian Serb officers charged with genocide in connection with the 1995 massacre of around 8,000 boys and men at Srebrenica, and a case against seven high-ranking Serb politicians and officers in relation to mass deportations and killings in Kosovo in 1999, both of which will begin in July.
But he pointed out that if cuts were requested in smaller cases, for instance that senior Croat generals, which are still to be scheduled, for example, the court could appear “unbalanced” to observers. The counts are often “complex and interlinked” he explained, which would make is very difficult to disentangle them.
He also pointed out that it may be perceived as unfair to those who have already been processed by the court.
Nikiforov said the only recourse available to the prosecutor would be to appeal. But, he acknowledged, the appeals chamber is run by Judge Pocar, who announced the rule change.

Apart from restricting the counts on the indictment, the judges have also decided on a number of steps to control proceedings at the tribunal more tightly, “shifting away from party-driven process to one that is closely managed by the judges of the tribunal”, as Pocar explained.

The innovations mainly focus on the work of pre-trial judges, and how they should write strict timetables, require the prosecution and defence to provide timely pre-trial briefs, disclose witnesses and make “greater use of the power to sanction” either side.
Chen says that the measures Pocar is discussing, and the various suggestions made by Del Ponte in her speech all point to the “daunting crush of the ‘completion strategy’ [that all organs of the court feel] in their work”.
Del Ponte also used her report and speech to the Security Council to attack the cooperation offered to her office by Serbia, Republika Srpska, Russia and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.
As usual, her criticism of Belgrade focussed on efforts to detain the indicted former head of the Bosnian Serb army, Ratko Mladic. She complained that rather than arresting Mladic, the Serbian authorities had wasted time trying to get him to surrender voluntarily. And while a series of operations targeting his support network earlier this year might have succeeded in producing a lot of column inches, she added, they lacked the discretion needed to acquire information that could have led to his arrest.
In addition, Del Ponte voiced suspicion that inconsistencies in reports submitted to her office by the Serbian authorities were a sign that the information in them had been “doctored for political reasons”.
Del Ponte admitted that she had seen no “credible information” about the location of Radovan Karadzic, the former president of Republika Srpska, also indicted on charges of genocide, “for more than a year now”.
But she pointed her finger at the RS, saying that “part of his network …remains there”, and she complained about a decrease in cooperation.
Following the successful referendum on independence in Montenegro, the prosecutor said that there was a risk that “problems will arise” with cooperation with the tribunal because state union organs are responsible for that area.
Some of Del Ponte’s most scathing criticism, however, was reserved for UNMIK, who she accused in her report of deliberately obstructing access to evidence. “My office has nowadays more difficulties to access documents belonging to UNMIK than in any other place in the former Yugoslavia,” she told the Security Council.
Her report also noted that UNMIK had been negligent in its handling of witnesses on a number of occasions, leading to a loss of confidence in the ability of the system to protect them. And it complained of a perception in Kosovo – “justified by numerous facts” – that The Hague’s highest profile Kosovo Albanian indictee, Ramush Haradinaj, enjoys UNMIK’s support.
Haradinaj was prime minister of Kosovo prior to his transfer to the Hague tribunal last year. UNMIK has praised his work in that past and backed his successful bid to return to Kosovo and re-enter politics whilst awaiting trial on war crimes charges.
In a press release issued the day after Del Ponte’s speech before the Security Council, UNMIK declared her accusations “unfounded”. The statement said that judges at the tribunal had rejected allegations of inappropriate behaviour by the UN administration in Kosovo in relation to Haradinaj.
Towards the end of her speech in New York, Del Ponte also announced plans to press the Security Council to grant her staff the power to arrest fugitives themselves. Given the lack of political will to arrest Mladic and the tribunal’s other top fugitive, former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic, she said, “I do not see any other way for the [tribunal] to fulfil its mandate and satisfy the legitimate expectations the victims placed into the United Nations.”
She reiterated that plans to close the Hague tribunal within a few years cannot go ahead unless the two men have faced trial.
Following Del Ponte’s speech, Russian delegate Vitaly Churkin dismissed her criticism of his government and described her talk of securing the power to arrest fugitives herself as “fantasies”.
Janet Anderson is IWPR’s programme manager in The Hague and Michael Farquhar is an IWPR reporter in London.


June 9, 2006 Comments off


Points of Interest (blog editor’s picks):

1) The Prosecution has proven an international armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina no less than five times. This proves that there was no civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina as previously thought, but a full blown international attack on Bosnia-Herzegovina by neighbouring Serbia.
2) An amendment to the Rules was adopted that would allow a Trial Chamber to direct the Prosecutor to cut counts in an indictment, which Mrs. Del Ponte justly refuses to do.
3) Serbia has the main responsibility to locate, arrest and transfer all six fugitives. The co-operation provided by Serbia to the ICTY has been and remains very difficult and frustrating.
4) Nobody is searching actively for primary orchestrators of Srebrenica massacre: Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. [Also see: $5,000,000 Reward posted by the US Justice Department for the capture of Radovan Karadzic and/or Ratko Mladic]

Mrs. President,

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to provide you with my assessment of the progress made in the completion strategy and to highlight the problems we continue to face. A written assessment was delivered already, and I intend to focus on the main issues.

A number of steps were taken internally to increase the efficiency of the Tribunal, while maintaining the highest standards expected from an international court created by the United Nations.

In this regard, I have proposed to join cases with a similar crime base. I have filed four motions for that purpose, and three were accepted by the Chambers. One trial with six accused has already begun. Later this year, a consolidated trial with nine accused charged with crimes committed in Srebrenica will start, as well as another one with six leading political and military figures indicted for crimes committed by Serbian forces in Kosovo.

My second initiative has been to propose the transfer of cases involving mid-and lower-level perpetrators. This undertaking was met with strong opposition from some victims’ groups. However, my assessment of the local judiciaries is that they are now capable of trying such cases. Beginning in September 2004, I have therefore filed 13 motions requesting the transfer of cases to the domestic jurisdictions of the former Yugoslavia. There is no other case at the ICTY that could be transferred to the region, as, according to the criteria set by the Council, they all concern the most senior leaders responsible for the most serious crimes.

Thirdly, I have been working with the Judges in taking all possible measures to ensure that the Tribunal’s own process is as efficient as possible. I have put forward packages of reforms that, if implemented, would significantly accelerate the pre-trial and trial proceedings. Given the seriousness of the cases at the ICTY, it is essential to improve urgently pre-trial management, so that issues are narrowed before the trial starts so that the trial can focus on truly contested matters. Decisions on key issues must be made long before the beginning of the trial. For instance, it is important that a decision be rendered very soon on a motion regarding the disclosure of materials in electronic or hard copy that I filed in the Šešelj case over two years ago.

I have also proposed that a much more dynamic approach be taken on adjudicated facts. Such facts have been proven in previous trials, and the Chambers have the power to decide that they must not be proven again in a given trial. The instrument of the adjudicated facts is therefore a key tool to reduce the scope of the trials. For instance, the Prosecution has proven an international armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina no less than five times, wasting months and months on proving the same facts, sometimes with the same witnesses, in case after case. We have to prove it again, for the sixth time, in the on-going Prlić et al. trial.

I have also taken the lead in promoting the efficient use of time at trial. For example, in the Prlić et al. case, the Prosecution has put forward a 10 point plan to streamline the trial, within the time limit set by the President of the Trial Chamber, for the Prosecution and Defence respectively to present their cases and cross-examination. This plan was accepted by the Trial Chamber and its implementation does have serious positive effects.

During the Judges’ Plenary on 30 May, an amendment to the Rules was unfortunately adopted that would allow a Trial Chamber to direct the Prosecutor to cut counts in an indictment. In view of the checks and balances contained in the Statute, and particularly the duties and responsibilities of the Prosecutor under the Statute, such directions by the Chambers can only be interpreted as purely advisory in nature. Only the Security Council has the power to modify the ICTY Statute, which guarantees the independence of the Prosecutor and assigns to her the responsibility of determining which charges to bring in a prosecution.

I am continuously reviewing our cases and I will not hesitate to cut counts when there are clear judicial reasons for that. It is however impossible to arbitrarily cut and slice cases, which are complex by their very nature. My mandate, given by the Security Council, is to prosecute the most senior officials, that is to say persons who were most often far removed from the crime scenes and whose responsibility can only be established by examining a number of different crimes, often in different geographical areas. Removing one or several counts artificially may seriously undermine the prosecution case. Eventually it leads to impunity for certain crimes and does not do justice to the victims, who are already puzzled by the Completion Strategy.

Allow me to use an example: Srebrenica. Which counts should I eliminate? Those referring to the killings of over 7,000 men and boys? (see: preliminary list of 8,106 Srebrenica massacre victims) Or those relating to the forcible transfer of 25,000 women, children and elderly people? This would mean that I am only presenting half the picture of the serious crimes that took place in Srebrenica. How can I justify presenting only half the picture of the brutal crimes that took place in the former Yugoslavia? These are choices that, as a Prosecutor representing also the victims, I am not ready to make. This would introduce unacceptable disparity in the treatment of the persons accused by the Tribunal. There must be no justice à la carte.

I will again urge the other organs of the Tribunal to focus on the proposals made by the Judges’s Working Group and by my Office. These measures, if fully implemented, would have a serious impact on the length of the proceedings and put the Tribunal closer to realizing the Completion Strategy.

Speeding up the proceedings is a top priority of my Office. Obtaining the arrest and transfer of the remaining indictees at large is another one. It has been said a thousand times: it is inconceivable that the ICTY closes its doors with Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladić at large. I want to stress again before the Council that impunity for these two most serious architects of the crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, both accused of genocide, would represent a terrible blow not only to the success or failure of the Tribunal, but to the future of international justice as a whole.

Serbia has the main responsibility to locate, arrest and transfer all six fugitives. According to my information, Mladić, Tolimir, Hadžić and Župljanin are in Serbia. Furthermore, there are established leads connecting Serbia to Karadžić, whose location is unknown, and to Ðjorđevic, who is still believed to be in Russia. The fact that Mladić has been an active officer of the Army of Yugoslavia till May 2002, one year and a half after the fall of Milosević and seven years after he was indicted, adds to the responsibility of Belgrade for its failure to deliver the former General.

Over the past twelve months, the Serbian authorities have repeatedly promised that Mladić would be delivered soon. I was told regularly by Serbian officials that the circle was closing down around him. At the end of April, in view of Serbia’s failure to achieve the promised results, I re-assessed the whole operation and found out that it had been suffering grave defects. During 2005, there was no real attempt to locate and arrest Mladić. Time was wasted in trying to encourage him to surrender voluntarily. Since the beginning of this year, it seems that more was undertaken. In particular, his support network was targeted, and several of his supporters arrested. These actions were sometimes spectacular, they fed many news articles, but they lacked the necessary discretion that would have allowed to acquire information leading to Mladić.

The most blatant dysfunction is the total lack of co-operation between the military and the civilian authorities. The inconsistencies I could identify in the various reports provided to me came as another surprise and forced me to suspect that some of the information contained in these reports had been doctored for political reasons. In our co-operation with Belgrade, we have not managed to achieve so far the level of trust and transparency that we had achieved with other countries. I will keep on engaging the Serbian Government in the months to come, trying to establish more confidence and a better communication.

As to the other aspects of the co-operation with Belgrade, a mission was sent in the second half of May to test the new arrangement agreed upon with the Government of Serbia and Montenegro regarding access to archives. This has been a long standing problem. The first accounts I received from my staff are encouraging.

To sum up, the co-operation provided by Serbia to the ICTY has been and remains very difficult and frustrating. There is serious political and administrative resistance within the system, and a strong political will is needed to overcome those obstacles. On the basis of the facts in my possession, I cannot be convinced that Serbia is ready to arrest Mladić. For a number of reasons, the authorities may still prefer to force him to surrender voluntarily.

Republika Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina also has to increase substantially its efforts to locate and arrest fugitives. Whereas it is unclear whether Radovan Karadžić still resides at times or travels through Republika Srpska, it is certain that part of his network and of his family remains there. In the reporting period, the cooperation provided by Republika Srpska to my office has rather decreased, which is due to political reasons and the reshuffling of personnel in the police. Now that a new team is in place, the search for Karadžić must intensify rapidly.

My office has maintained a positive working relationship with Montenegro for over a year, and I expect this co-operation to continue at full speed. Part of Karadžić’s family is living in Montenegro, and he can count on numerous supporters there.

I am particularly disappointed about the lack of movement on another important fugitive, Vlastimir Ðjorđevic. The investigation carried out by the Russian authorities, as they told us, has failed to produce results. This will have negative implications on the completion strategy, because, if Ðjorđevic is not surrendered within the next weeks, it will be impossible to try him with his six co-accused. Resources will therefore have to be wasted in a separate trial. Ðjorđevic is accused of very serious crimes committed by Serbian forces in Kosovo. The long and unexplained delays in the transfer of Zelenović, who was detained in Russia since August 2005, do not allow for optimism in the future of the ICTY’s co-operation with the Russian Federation.

It is also worrying that a sister organisation of the Tribunal, the UN Mission in Kosovo, refuses to co-operate fully with the Tribunal. My office has nowadays more difficulties to access documents belonging to UNMIK than in any other place in the former Yugoslavia. Furthermore, the UNMIK leadership is encouraging a climate which deters witnesses from talking to my investigators when it comes to the Albanian perpetrators. Very recently, there have been some indications that the UNMIK is willing to take a more constructive attitude in its relations with my office.

Mrs. President,

I explained at length in my last report why Karadžić and Mladić are still at large more than 10 years after they were first indicted. My assessment remains the same today. Serbia has to do much more to arrest and transfer Ratko Mladić. The arrest of Radovan Karadžić is a shared responsibility of Serbia, Republika Srpska, NATO and EUFOR. It is pathetic that today, nobody is searching actively for Karadžić. The planned downsizing of EUFOR will further aggravate the situation. Since no one else seems to have the political will to locate and arrest Karadzic and Mladić, I will have no choice but to seek from the Council the powers to arrest fugitives where ever they are and to allocate to my Office the necessary resources for this. Ultimately, I do not see any other way for the ICTY to fulfil its mandate and satisfy the legitimate expectations the victims placed into the United Nations.