The Chief Prosecutor for the war crimes tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, says she is willing to stay on beyond her scheduled date of departure, if her successor has not been found by then. She is due to leave the International Criminal Tribunal in September, but could remain until the end of the year. The Tribunal itself is under international pressure to complete all its trials by next year, and to deal with all appeals by 2010. But the trial of the former Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic was never completed, because of his early death, and the two most wanted men, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are still at large.
Euronews asked Carla del Ponte if that should be seen as a professional defeat for her.
Del Ponte: A:Why? A natural death can happen. Unfortunately Milosevic died 2 months before the end of the trial. But we have done a lot of other trials. The Tribunal indicted 161 suspects and more than 50 have been convicted and sentenced, 17 are in appeal. At the end I think we were able to investigate and to take to Court the most responsible for the crimes committed in former Yugoslavia during the conflict – crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocides. So that is, for sure, important.
Euronews: Serbia and the EU restarted negotiations on the 13th of June. Does it mean that you personally, and the international community, got a very strong signal about the prompt arrest of Karadzic and Mladic?
Del Ponte: What is sure is that the new government shows a real political will to obtain the arrest of these remaining fugitives. And after a few weeks in force, they delivered two – Zdravko Tolimir and Vlastimir Djordjevic. So I think that now they, finally, really have the will to deliver the other remaining fugitives, yes.
Euronews: Imagine Belgrade does not arrest Karadzic and Mladic as soon as you would wish. Do you think that, in that case, the EU should stop the negotiations again?
Del Ponte: We need political pressure, we need political help from the EU to obtain the arrest of the fugitives. And commissioner Olli Rehn said the other day that before Serbia would be admitted as a candidate for the EU, they should fully co-operate with us. So that will mean, in other words, that Serbia must deliver the fugitives before being able to continue their way to the EU.
Euronews: What do you think about the international proposals on the future status of Kosovo? Might they become an obstacle for Serbia’s co-operation with the Tribunal?
Del Ponte: I hope, not. I hope absolutely not. My aim is to obtain my fugitives. Of course I would prefer not to have obstacles (but rather) the goodwill of the government of Serbia to transfer the fugitives.
Euronews: A lack of initiative by Dutch peacekeepers helped create the conditions for the mass killing in Srebrenica. Don’t you think that the international law should be applied to the Dutch as well?
Del Ponte: No, I am the prosecutor responsible for the commission of crimes during the conflict. I am not entitled to investigate the moral or political responsibilities, I am not investigating the prevention of crimes. The crimes must be committed before I have the jurisdiction to investigate.
Euronews: Which of your cases was most important to you, personally?
Del Ponte: The achievements of the Tribunal are that it was possible to put the (senior) military and political (people) for this commission of crimes – not those people who (carried out) the crimes (but) those sitting at a table and organizing and planning the crimes are (brought) to justice. That is the great achievement. Because after Nurnberg and Tokyo it was never done, so that is a great achievement. I do not know what I will be doing after (leaving the tribunal) because I am so busy now that I will have time after to decide what to do. And of course it depends on my government as when I go back I am still attached to the Ministry of Justice in Switzerland.