PRESS CONFERENCE BY PROSECUTORS FOR INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA, RWANDA

12 December 2008

PRESS CONFERENCE BY PROSECUTORS FOR INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA, RWANDA

12 December 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY PROSECUTORS FOR INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS

FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA, RWANDA

The prosecutors of the international tribunals trying war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda said, during a Headquarters news conference this afternoon, that they needed more time and money to finish pending cases and secure the arrests of 15 fugitives still at large.

Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and Hassan Jallow, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said they wanted to keep the Tribunals open until all current trials and appeals were completed and then put in place a residual mechanism to prosecute the remaining fugitives, as well as attend to follow-up requests for assistance, witness protection and provisional release. 

“That is why we have submitted, and we will discuss on Monday in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), our supplementary budget for both Tribunals to keep our staff at the same level in 2009,” Mr. Brammertz said.  The Tribunals would maintain a small core group of experts to address ongoing and pending requests.  Personnel and funding would shrink as the Tribunals closed cases or transferred those involving mid-level or low-ranking officials to national courts in their respective regions. 

“It is very important for both Tribunals that the message is very, very clear that wherever and whenever the remaining fugitives are arrested –- in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years –- there will be an international mechanism ready to try them and that there can be no impunity and no safe haven,” Mr. Brammertz said.  Before speaking to reporters, he and Mr. Jallow presented that case to the United Nations Security Council.

Former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic and Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic were still wanted by the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal, while the Rwanda Tribunal’s hunt for Felicien Kabuga, a Rwandan businessman accused of bankrolling and participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, as well as for 12 other fugitives thought to be hiding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, continued.  Council resolution 1503 (2003) had called on the Tribunals to complete all trials of first instance by the end of 2008 and all appeals in 2010, but neither was on track to meet those “completion strategies”.

Outlining the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal’s current caseload, Mr. Brammertz said it had seven ongoing trials, and it would begin five new trials of first instance in early 2009, which could last up to 18 months, while pending appeals could continue through 2012.  According to Mr. Jallow, several Rwanda Tribunal judgments were due next week, including those of senior military officers, and the trials of 10 indictees in detention would begin in January and end by September.

Mr. Brammertz said he was working with the Governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia to obtain documents and archives for ongoing cases.  The arrest, in July, of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was a major milestone with Serbia.  There were no major, pending issues in Bosnia, but the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal was still encouraging authorities there to investigate and prosecute fugitive support networks.  Croatian officials had answered most Former Yugoslavia Tribunal requests, but they had given partial responses on the case involving former General Ante Gotovina and had yet to hand over key military documents. 

As part of the completion strategies, since 2004 the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal had referred, pursuant to its Rule 11bis, 13 cases to domestic courts in the region, Mr. Brammertz said.  But the Tribunal still needed funds to help those courts prosecute cases of war crimes long after it closed.

“We strongly believe that the ultimate success of the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal as a tribunal will depend on our ability to transfer the remaining case files to the region, and we hope that the region will have the political support and also the logistical and operational support to conduct their own investigations,” he said. 

Mr. Jallow echoed that sentiment.  “It’s very important that we do succeed in the referral of cases to Rwanda because, primarily, it will ease the workload on us and enable us to more readily finish our work on the trial phase by the end of next year.”

However, the Rwanda Tribunal had not had many takers, he said.  It had referred two cases to French courts, and courts in the Netherlands and Norway had agreed to accept some cases, but were unable to proceed due to jurisdiction reasons.  Judges had, so far, declined to transfer cases to Rwandan courts for fear that defence attorneys there could not try them effectively, because of the reluctance of witnesses to travel to Rwanda to testify and for fear of the witnesses’ safety.  But the Rwanda Tribunal and Rwandan authorities were working together to try to overcome those constraints by January.

Mr. Jallow said he was working with Congolese authorities to find fugitives and that he had appealed to the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and Member States to help in that process.  “We’ve engaged in discussions with the Democratic Republic of the Congo authorities that have been very encouraging,” he said, while warning that “They have issues of capacity in trying to arrest them, given the location of these fugitives in the eastern part of country.”

Kenyan authorities, however, had not been as cooperative in the hunt for Mr. Kabuga.  “ Kenya is not an issue of capacity.  It is more of political will,” Mr. Jallow said, calling on officials there to step up efforts to freeze Mr. Kabuga’s assets and investigate his business interests.

During the briefing, correspondents asked Mr. Brammertz if Serbian authorities were cooperating adequately with the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal.  In response, he said there was a marked change in the Serbs’ approach during his second visit there.  Officials had turned in Mr. Karadzic in July and former Bosnian Serb Police Commander Stojan Zupljanin in June, and they were cooperating more with the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal to arrest other fugitives at large and release military documents. 

Another reporter asked Mr. Jallow for his response to a letter from Human Rights Watch urging him to prosecute officials of the Rwandan Patriotic Front for war crimes during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  Mr. Jallow said he had not seen the letter and declined to comment on it.  However, he said the Rwanda Tribunal had a special office that had investigated cases involving Rwandan Patriotic Front authorities over the years and that it had referred some cases to Rwandan courts, which on 24 October had charged four senior military officers with murder and war crimes.   

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.