reconciliation and politics
Carla Del Ponte, is due in Belgrade again, keeping
the pressure on for the delivery of fugitives to
the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia. Ahead of her visit, the Hague Tribunal's
chief prosecutor gave this interview to B92's Milos
Madam Prosecutor, let’s start with something
that you are dealing with every day. It’s
probably one of your main preoccupations. What do
you think of the Tribunal’s exit strategy?
Is this some kind of pressure on your office? I
mean you should speed up the trials and think also
about the consequences. Is this a pressure on your
DEL PONTE: Yes it is, but is now since a couple
of years that we are under pressure because we received
the indication that we must close the investigation
by 2004. We have done that, so we are not issuing
indictments any more and, of course, now after the
resolution from the Security Council that the first
instance trials should be finished in 2008 and appeals
by 2010, we are particularly under pressure because
we are obliged to schedule all our trials and to
be able to close in 2010 the Tribunal.
The pressure is particularly how to speed up the
trials, always respecting that it is a fair trial
for the defence and for the accused and, of course,
for the prosecution and of course there are the
fugitives because I have now, since today, I have
seven fugitives still at large and, as you know,
important fugitives, important under the criminal
responsibility for what they are accused and so,
yes, the completion strategy is a pressure on the
office of the prosecutor to be able to close this
tribunal by 2010.
B92: We are going to discuss the fact that there
are now seven fugitives and that since last night
one more has been arrested, or surrendered. But
you said for yourself that one of your aims now
is to speed up the trials. Does that have any consequences
on the fairness of the trials and the goals that
the tribunal has?
DEL PONTE: No. Absolutely not. Fairness is one of
the principal grounds in the conduct of these trials
and that is, of course, preserved very strongly
I would say.
B92: Soon the so-called megatrials will begin. Soon,
we don’t know how soon. I am going to ask
you that also. One is for the Srebrenica case and
one is for the indictees who are indicted for Kosovo
crimes. Now, is the prosecution ready for those
trials? When I talk about this with defence attorneys
they usually claim that you are not ready and that
the Tribunal itself is not prepared for such megatrials.
DEL PONTE: First of all, one of the problems is
to prepare the courtroom…
B92: Not just the courtroom, I mean…
DEL PONTE: Second… No, for the trial…
We will be ready. You know, the request for joinder
is to put together the accused who are indicted
for the same crime base. Of course, in a different
position, but the crime base is the same, so Srebrenica,
the crime base is the same, so we have different
accused at different levels of criminal responsibility,
but I think it is useful not to repeat the same
trial many times, but just one, so Srebrenica will
be nine accused. Unfortunately I have one who is
still at large and that is the accused, Tolimir,
so I expect the authorities in Belgrade to provide
the transfer of the accused Tolimir as soon as possible,
so that when the trial will start, he will also
be present. So nine accused in one trial.
B92: Can you give us any approximate date for the
beginning of the trial. You can not in the Srebrenica
case since Tolimir is still at large, but what about
the Kosovo case?
DEL PONTE: You know, the Kosovo case, that is Milutinovic
and the other accused. So we have now trials that
are ongoing, so the president will assign to start
the other trial, keeping in mind when it will be
possible to have judges, trial chambers available
to conduct this trial. But in our office we are
preparing the trial, all trials, with different
staff, so it should be possible to start the Kosovo
trial, as you called it, next year. In any case
next year because this year we have the possibility
to start one or two trials, but not the so-called
B92: Sreten Lukic and probably Milan Lukic will
probably soon be transferred, we don’t know
how soon, will be transferred here but, nevertheless,
the arrests of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic
are yet to happen. You talk a lot about those indictees.
You also often mention that you had or have information
about their whereabouts. Now the governments are
denying your information. So within the past four
or five years, was the information on those two
or three indictees correct? How do you get such
information? Give us as many details as you are
able because I think our viewers are intereste in
DEL PONTE: First I want to tell you that if we are
speaking, for example, about the accused Mladic,
I have said since 2001 that Mladic is in Serbia
and Mladic is protected by the army. And, finally,
now in Belgrade the authorities are confirming what
I am saying Nobody’s denying any more that
Mladic is in Serbia and protected by the army. So
I must tell you that my information that we received
was properly found and credible.
About Gotovina, I don’t have information
about the location but what I have received since
now is that he is in Croatia or Bosnia-Hercegovina.
About Karadzic, I think nobody’s denying that
Karadzic is in the region, that means that he’s
in Republika Srpska, moving Republika-Srpska-Montenegro-Serbia.
So, it is not a secret. I think it is absolutely
accepted, publicly accepted where they are, these
accused. So I’m not revealing …
DEL PONTE: Yes.
B92: On the other hand, what we are expecting is
your visit to Belgrade, or to the region, at the
end of this month. This is defeinitly going to be
a topic between you and the authorities in the region.
What I want to ask you is are you going to link
this topic with the EU talks that Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro
DEL PONTE: You know, my topic is to obtain the arrest
and transfer of the fugitives still at large. And
when I’m going – I’m going regularly
to the region – and when I’m going it’s
because I must discuss the arrest of the fugitives.
And if I’m going to Belgrade, of course I
must discuss particulalry about the arrest of Mladic,
but not only Mladic: Mladic, Tolimir, Hadzic, Zupljanin.
Because to now we have received in cooperation with
Belgrade fugitives who were transferred as so-called
voluntary surrenders of fugitives. But these were
not the highly responsible of what we sought. And
so the highly responsible, military or politically
are still at large. So, I’m speaking of course
about Karadzic and Mladic for example.
And I will go to Belgrade to discuss what they
are doing and is Mladic and Tolimir and the others
– are they coming to The Hague, because my
last visit was in June, and I received assurances
from the authorities that Mladic, particularly Mladic,
will be delivered to The Hague before October 5.
So I am expecting, and I hope that they will be
able to do it. Because I believe the authorities
when they are saying that.
B92: I’m trying to connect this with the forthcoming
talks with the EU that Zagreb and Belgrade are separately
expecting. So your opinion counts on that matter,
so what will …
DEL PONTE: You know, I need support from the international
community, from the European Union. It is extremely
important as you know. And so, I am also grateful
that the European Union is asking me my assessment
about cooperation, and the main point of cooperation
is of course the arrest of fugitives now. So I expect
that the European Union is continuing supporting
us and, of course, negotiations start, it’s
an important leverage to obtain the arrest of the
B92: So you are connecting the fugitives and the
DEL PONTE: You know, I’m not interfering in
politics. The negotiations are a political decision
and my concern is to have my fugitives in The Hague
and my concern is that the European Union is still
helping us to obtain that.
B92: I read in The Guardian that Germany says that
the expansion of Europe can not be your hostage.
Have you ever been told that openly or is this just
DEL PONTE: I don’t know I never read…
I’m just hearing from you that kind of consideration.
What it is is that I am called by the European Union,
by the Council to come to Brussels or to Luxembourg
and to give an assessment and it is my duty and
it is my task to do it. After the political discussion
and the political decision outside my power... As
I said I’m grateful that the European Union
is asking me about the assessment, about cooperation.
B92: You will again be seeing Mr Kostunica. In 2001
when you first met Vojislav Kostunica he told you
that the Tribunal is an anti-Serbian institution
and that it is controlled by the USA. Now, in the
meantime, it seesm that something has changed. You
have talked with this man three, four, five times.
What do you think has changed and, in your opinion,
what has happened within those four years?
DEL PONTE: First of all I must tell you that I have
met him twice.
B92: Ah yes, he refused to see you.
DEL PONTE: Twice or three times. But of course,
the first time, it was not really a good approach,
but in the meantime it is a great change and Prime
Minister Kostunica, particularly in the last meeting,
he gave me assurances about the arrest of fugitives
and full cooperation with us, so if it’s not
achieved now I hope they’re working on that
and it will be possible to do that.
B92: I think it is interesting to tell us: are those
talks unpleasant for you?
DEL PONTE: No. Why? No, absolutely not.
B92: So you can not say it’s a dialogue, if
DEL PONTE: It is now a dialogue. It is a dialogue
since the beginning of this year. It was a great
change in the attitude of the government of Serbia
and I must say I have no particular problem. We
are in touch. We are in touch regularly and we expect
to have concrete results, very soon, I hope
B92: The European Union and NATO, I think, mentioned
Dayton, the anniversaryof the Dayton Agreement as
a new date. You mentioned the fifth of October,
since this is the approximate date of the EU talks.
What about that?
DEL PONTE: I mentioned the fifth of October because
it was mentioned by the authorities in Belgrade,
by the president of the federation, by the prime
minister, all authorities, the minister for foreign
affairs, the authorities that I met, gave me, and
particularly Prime Minister Kostunica gave me the
B92: He mentioned that date?
DEL PONTE: He mentioned, yes, he mentioned October,
October the fifth as an important date, and I received,
I received explicitly assurances that before that
date Mladic could be transferred to The Hague.
So it’s true that Secretary Solana and Secretary…
the general secretary of NATO, they fixed another
term, a deadline, another date…
B92: Which is the tenth deadline, I think, within
DEL PONTE: Yes, but you know, you can always discover
a new deadline, but time is running, and in my calculation
if we want to respect the completion strategy we
must have all fugitives in The Hague before the
end of the year. Yes. Otherwise the completion strategy
is falling down. It’s not possible to respect
the resolution of the Security Council.
B92: Let’s turn to the Milosevic trial. Are
you satisfied with it? The critics say that this
trial has given enough ammunition, not only for
the nationalists in Serbia to say that this is an
anti-Serbia institution, but also there are critics
who say that this also gave enough ammunition for
generals in the Pentagon, for Western diplomats
who cannot stand the very idea of international
DEL PONTE: The Milosevic trial is a long trial because
we are discussing and proving ten years of responsibility,
ten years of crimes responsibility.
B92: You said once that it is almost a routine now.
DEL PONTE: No, I said it is a routine in the sense
that we have rules of procedure to follow and so
after the presentation of the prosecution case,
we have now the defence case and the accused, Mr
Milosevic, is allowed to present his defence witnesses,
so, you know, the Milosevic trial, it’s a
long trial because, as I said, it’s a long
time of criminal responsibility. But we have a lot
of other trials which are ongoing or we expect sentences.
So, for example, we expect sentencing in the Limai
case, and the Limai case is an Albanian accused
from Kosovo. So, why focus only on Milosevic, of
course Milosevic is a former president. But don’t
forget that we are conducting many other trials.
We have many other indictments against accused from
all sides, from all origins, ethnic origins, so
Bosniacs, Serbs, Albanians, Croats. So it is unjustified
to focus on Milosevic. From the judicial point of
view we are trying, we are doing our task under
the mandate we received from the Security Council.
B92: If today you wer in a position to sign the
indictment against Milsoevic would you change anything
DEL PONTE: What a question! I work with what I have
and I think that the three indictrments were properly
proved in court, so we expect now to be able to
finish and to obtain the judgement from the Trial
B92: Perhaps you could clarify something for us.
Last week, I think, Vojislav Seselj was in the stand
in the courtroom, there was some misunderstanding
when he mentioned his idea of Greater Serbia. Now
after that an argument started in the courtroom.
So perhaps you could explain that to us. Is Milosevic
actually charged with attempting to create a Greater
DEL PONTE: You know, I won’t enter now into
what is the detail from the ongoing discussion in
court because this discussions must be held in court
and in the presence of the judges and I cannot discuss
that here publicly. But I think when you go through
exactly what was said in court you will receive
a clear answer,
B92: Well, Mr Nice certainly tried to give one in
We are still waiting for a direct link between
that video of the brutal execution near Trnovo in
Bosnia that was commted by the Scorpions with the
trial and with the accused. Your office has asked
for additional witnesses and to give additional
evidence on this. So how will you convince the judges
that there is a direct link between the Scorpions
DEL PONTE: You know, in each trial, the prosecutor
has, after the presentation of the defence case,
the prosectuor has the possibility to present other
evidence in the so-called rebuttal phase. So that
could be done after the presentation of Milosevic’s
defence in rebuttal, so we expect to be able. And
you know, we will also have to evaluate at the end
of the presentation of the defence case what is
really needed to represent in rebuttal because we
don’t want to make a repetition, or if we
assume that our evidence is strong enough we will
not rebut what is not really needed because I think
that next year this trial should come to an end.
B92: Which part? Milosevic giving his evidence or
the whole first part of the trial?
DEL PONTE: Next year we will be able, I hope, that
the Trial Chamber close the trial with a judgement.
B92: I mentioned the video of the execution of the
Srebrenica men. That video certainly changed something
in Serbia. A lot of people, in the month that followed,
finally realised what actually happened in Srebrenica.
I think it really helped for the majority of people.
But last week when you were addressing a press conference
in Switzerland you mentioned that the thing is going
DEL PONTE: Not really. I said that despite that,
because, showing the video, as you said, it was
very, very positive. But despite what was positive,
immediately you have this negative reaction from
another part that is coming out. And that is surprising
me and I think it’s not so good for the country,
for the state, because that is a little bit, a sort
of disinformation from the past, you know, coming
out again. Because saying that in Srebrenica three
thousand Serbs were killed is absolutely not accurate,
not true. Because, as I said, it’s true that
Serbs were killed in Srebrenica, but it was in the
conflict outside Srebrenica, and it was two thousand,
but two thousand soldiers because it is a conflict,
it is a war. So, you know, I’m always unpleased
about disinformation because we are here trying,
trying to come to the truth of what happened, the
facts that happened, what happened during the conflict,
but the truth. We must avoid, absolutely, this disinformation.
B92: The non-governmental organisations in Serbia
that were connected with bringing this video to
light have been fiercely attacked by nationalists
and right wing political parties in Serbia, even
physically. So I would be interested in knowing
what your relationship is with these non-governmental
circles. This could clear up the whole thing because,
you know, they have been almost crucified in Serbia
as enemies of the state.
DEL PONTE: You must not forget that I am the prosecutor
of this tribunal. And my contact with organisations,
with NGOs, with different institutions is only done
because of cooperation with us, because we must
collect evidence, because we must have access to
witnesses and documents. That’s it. I don’t
see, and I don’t want to have a particular
task different from what I am assigned by the Security
B92: I’m aware of that, but there are people
who support your work and the work of the Tribunal,
and their position in Serbia is not so good. They
are, as I told you, probably in physical danger
because of the natioanlists and their attitudes
DEL PONTE: They are… Yes, many people are
in danger because of this dangerous attitude. But
I think that it is important to stay in the right
direction,despite the threats, despite the situation.
B92: You told the media that Belgrade, and the local
govenrment, not just Belgrade, won’t be allowed
to take over any of the proceedings unless they
cooperate with the Tribunal. Now what has happened
is that Belgrade basically won’t be given
any of the big trials from your office or from this
tribunal. People from the National Council and from
the Special Prosecution in Belgrade really expected
to get the Vukovar Three case. What made you change
your mind? When we were hearing informally that
this would be held in Belgrade.
DEL PONTE: You put the question and you give the
answer. But I want to tell you that the Vukovar
Three case, my decision was to transfer the case.
So it was the Trial Chamber which decided differently.
It’s not my decision
B92: You withdrew your first intention to move it.
DEL PONTE: Yes, from Vukovar. But who knows. I have
cases which are without indictment because we suspended
investigations, and these cases we are able to transfer
to Belgrade. We transfer cases. We cooperate fully
with the chief prosecutor in Belgrade. You are aware
only of cases with an indictment, and until now
it was no decision with an indictment. But who knows,
we have other requests pending and it is possible
and I wish that Belgrade would also receive because
our evaluation in what we are doing now with prosecutors
in Belgrade is absolutely positive.
B92: I’m asking this because this decision
could probably be a problem in Belgrade when people
should confront all the crimes committed in their
name. I think this trial was a nice opportunity
DEL PONTE: Yes. But for other reasons it was not
possible. But I can say that Belgrade will have
the opportunity, other opportunities.
B92: One of the proclaimed goals of this tribunal
is, of course, justice. But when you have Milosevic
extradited here only for a donor conference, and
I think that Blaskic also was extradited for the
sake of American loans. Is there enough space to
talk about justice. Do you think that is a problem
in your work?
DEL PONTE: I don’t understand your question.
My problem is to obtain justice. I have a clear
mandate from the Security Council. I think I have
implemented it, fulfilled it, because the main responsibility
in military and political sector from the commission
of crimes against humanity and war crimes and genocide
are here in The Hague, expecting to go on trial
or serving sentences. I think we have done what
we are requested to do. Of course an issue which
is still open is Karadzic and Mladic, because without
Karadzic and Mladic of course it would be a problem.
But I’m still an optimist that we will achieve
all of that.
B92: Your office, I think, promoted the idea of
joint criminal enterprise. Over the past four or
five years has this passed the test, in your opinion?
DEL PONTE: First of all it’s not my office
that invented the joint criminal enterprise. The
joint criminal enterprise is a principle or is a
definition that is coming out of the national systems
and it’s coming out from the criminal activity
of perpetrators and of course it’s coming
out particularly of organised crime. Yes, joint
criminal enterprise was elaborated particulalry
for the purpose of the crimes we are handling, so
for war crimes and crimes against humanity and we
have also now jurisprudence on that because the
precedent sentences have explained exactly now the
three levels of joint criminal enterprise. We will
see, and we need some other judgements and sentences
to see if the elaboration we obtain is strong enough
to make real jurisprudence for the international
tribunals, but I think we are on the good way.
B92: In the past twenty years the prosecution office
has some ninety indictments. Ninety indictments
for four or five years of war in Yugoslavia and
dozens of verdicts. Is this enough to really establish
justice and reconciliation?
DEL PONTE: There are more than ninety indictments.
You have 162. If you are asking with the indictment
we issue, it is enough to obtain real justice or,
even more, to obtain reconciliation, I will tell
you no. Because other elements must be efficient
together to obtain real reconciliation or even justice
because ICTY is concerned with high level responsible,
military and politically. But you have mid-level
and low level perpetrators who must also come to
trial in the national systems. So it is now extremely
important that in Belgrade, in Sarajevo, in Zagreb
the prosecutors are able to finish it, to conduct
investigations and trials. And of course, important
also for reconciliation is not only to obtain justice
– that is extremely important, but not only
– and one of the elements is also victim support.
Victim support is also extremely important. So it
is a combined work that the International Tribunal
for the Former Yugoslavia, the national system and
the political system are working together to achieve
finally real reconciliation in the region.
B92: Two young Bosniacs, one of whom used to work
for the Tribunal, made a film called Blind Justice.
The message of that film is that after twelve years
of the Tribuanl operating there is really no justice
for the victims. Would you agree with that?
DEL PONTE: I didn’t see the film so it’s
difficult for me to make an evaluation but, by your
last sentence, I think that in my contact with the
victims I must say that justice is done. It’s
done partially, of course, because we are not a
jurisdiction which covers the commission of crimes
there and maybe that will make this feeling that
justice is not done, but important is to inform
exactly about what we are doing here, what must
be done by the local national system and, of course,
sometimes it’s not possible to do it overnight,
it takes some more days.
B92: B92 is broadcasting not only the Milosevic
trial but also several other trials that are going
on here. You mentioned some of them. We have been
doing this for more than three and a half years.
We have also been attacked by the nationalists in
Serbia, but also by pro-Western circles which claim
that we are not helping reconciliation by this coverage.
I’m wondering what your opinion is on that
kind of confrontation with the past.
DEL PONTE: It’s not possible for me to give
you my opinion because I’m not able to follow
your broadcasting because I don’t know your
language, unfortunately because if I had time I
would learn your language, but unfortunately I have
no time to learn the language so I do not follow
B92: We are basically broadcasting the trials. This
is what we do.
DEL PONTE: But that of course is positive, because
it’s… But you know it’s difficult
to broadcast a trial if you don’t broadcast
it entire. Because if you choose, you can make a
choice so you can divert… But in my view it’s
positive. It’s extremely positive and you
must continue. You must continue to do that, because
in the courtroom you can listen to what happened,
what was done, what is said.
B92: Do you feel like someone who is writing the
history of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia?
DEL PONTE: No. Absolutely not. I am a prosecutor.
I’m just trying to do what I was assigned
to do by the Security Council. No. Absolutely not.
I don’t want to even imagine such a burden
because… No. I’m just a little piece
of an instrument that is trying to create peace
and reconciliation and we will see.
B92: Thank you Madam Prosecutor.
DEL PONTE: Thank you. Thank you very much.