UN war crimes prosecutor says countries must cooperate in arresting fugitives

Countries must extend better cooperation in the effort to arrest fugitives wanted by United Nations war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the chief prosecutor of the courts has told the Security Council. Carla del Ponte, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), said she aimed to complete the prosecution work for both courts by the end of 2004. Towards that end, her staff has “drastically prioritized” investigative objectives, and further focused efforts on the main civilian, military and paramilitary leaders. “But one thing must be clear: we cannot be asked to complete soon our indictments and trials of top leaders and, at the same time, be told to be patient and not to rock the boat,” she stressed at a closed meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday. “Without timely arrests and timely access to the evidence, we cannot control the pace of our activities.” Specifically on the ICTR, she told Council members that concerns persist regarding the arrest of fugitives, access to information, and securing the appearance in court of prosecution witnesses. Although several suspects have recently been brought before the court, she voiced concern that others remain at large, adding, “we have good reason to believe that some are receiving protection in various African countries.” The Prosecutor also said she is “experiencing difficulties” in obtaining information from the Rwandan authorities on their armed forces. “I would urge the Council not to become distracted from the only issue at stake here: the obligation of Rwanda to cooperate with all lawful requests from the Tribunal, irrespective of the subject matter,” she said. On the ICTY, she described in-depth investigative work currently under way. “Our jurisprudence is expanding at every turn, and we are beginning to see the Tribunal’s powerful effect on a group of significant individuals, who at last are prepared to recognize the persistence of the institution and its ability to bring perpetrators inevitably to justice,” she said. At the same time, she cautioned that “the Council should make no mistake that obstacles and obstruction still confront us.” The most blatant example of this is the failure by domestic authorities to arrest fugitives, she said, citing several examples of lack of cooperation on the part of the Croatian and Yugoslav authorities. Also addressing the Council’s closed meeting were ICTY President Judges Claude Jorda and ICTR President Navanethem Pillay. In a separate closed meeting held yesterday, the Security Council heard from Judge Gilbert Guillaume, President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), on the ICJ’s work over the past year.

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