Accessibility links

Breaking News

Balkan Report: February 27, 2007

'I'm A Frustrated Prosecutor'

Carla Del Ponte

THE HAGUE, February 1, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), announced this week that she will retire in September. RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Sophia Kornienko interviewed Del Ponte on January 31.

RFE/RL: According to its current mandate, the war crimes tribunal is due to close in 2010. Since its founding in 1993, the tribunal has served indictments on 161 people from the former Yugoslavia. One hundred of them have already been tried and sentenced. But the court’s two most-wanted men, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, remain at large. Is it really possible that the tribunal will shut its doors even if its top indictees are not caught?

I'm a frustrated prosecutor since for eight years I have been searching and asking to have Karadzic and Mladic in The Hague.

Carla Del Ponte: The final decision is by the [UN] Security Council. But the president [of the tribunal] and I hope that there will never be this kind of decision, to close the tribunal without having Karadzic and Mladic on trial by the ICTY. Because this tribunal was created expressly for those most responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And Karadzic and Mladic, after [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic, are the most responsible. The creation of this tribunal cannot be ended abruptly without having Karadzic and Mladic in The Hague.

RFE/RL: And yet, it’s a distinct possibility that the two will not be delivered to justice, despite the pressure being applied on Serbia. Will you retire with a feeling of great disappointment if Karadzic and Mladic remain as fugitives?

Del Ponte: I'm not leaving now. I'm staying until September, so I hope to change the situation, because of course I'm a frustrated prosecutor since for eight years I have been searching and asking to have Karadzic and Mladic in The Hague. So I hope that the next weeks, the next months, will be a full success for the tribunal and for the prosecutor, to have both in The Hague.

RFE/RL: What has been your biggest achievement in office and your biggest failure?

Unfortunately, [Milosevic] died and so we lost the possibility to finish the trial. ... That's life -- that the accused, from time to time, die before the end of the trial.

Del Ponte: You know, I'm not at the end of my mandate. And although I have never thought about it, the big achievement for the office of the prosecutor is what we [managed] to execute: the arrest of many, many of our fugitives and the possibility to conduct their trials and obtain convictions. That is the achievement. The achievement is that [those in positions of high responsibility], particularly in the military, responsible for these crimes, were arrested and put on trial. Before the existence of this tribunal, it was never done. So that is a great achievement. And I will not tell you what our failures are.

RFE/RL: Wasn’t the death of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, while in custody at The Hague, a major failure for the tribunal?

Del Ponte: No, absolutely not. Of course, unfortunately he died and so we lost the possibility to finish the trial. But all the evidence we presented still exists and we use this evidence, although in other trials. So, that's life -- that the accused, from time to time, die before the end of the trial. That is not exceptional. But of course, we would have been better off if we could have finished the trial. But the truth of the facts are now evident.

RFE/RL: Do you believe the tribunal has the power to change attitudes in the Balkans and to foster reconciliation? Have any of the people you prosecuted expressed genuine remorse for their actions?

Del Ponte: About remorse, I did not see remorse in our accused, even the accused who pleaded guilty. But who knows? Sometimes it's difficult to make a proper evaluation because that is an inside world. And reconciliation? Reconciliation is something that will take a long, long time, generations. But the important thing is we know that the right direction is this one. The important thing is to have the knowledge that this is the right way and we must continue and it will be possible to achieve reconciliation. Of course, the activity of the tribunal is just a contribution to that. It depends also on many other issues.

RFE/RL Mladic (left) and Karadzic in 1993 (epa): You have repeatedly complained about Russia’s lack of cooperation with the tribunal. General Vlastimir Djordjevic, who is charged with war crimes in Kosovo, is one suspect you are seeking, whom you believe is in Russia. Do you see Moscow’s attitude as a relic of the Cold War?

Del Ponte: I don't know. I'm not going so far. I'm just always asking Russia to cooperate with us and to arrest Djordjevic but up to now, we've had no feedback on that. What we get is that they do not know if Djordjevic is in Russia, even though once I gave them an address in Russia, because I even have the address where he was. I don't know if he is still there. But they are not cooperating with us, unfortunately, and I even really don't know why.

RFE/RL: You have even said that Russia behaves as if the ICTY did not exist. Are those words not too strong?

Del Ponte: No, because [of] the example of [Dragan] Zelenovic. Zelenovic, unfortunately, was arrested in Siberia and they refused to send Zelenovic to us, despite our arrest warrant, and they sent him to Bosnia-Herzegovina. And it was the authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina that decided to send Zelenovic back to us. So Russia is not considering the existence of the tribunal.

(RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Irina Lagunina contributed to this report)

Albanian Parliament Speaker Discusses Kosovo, EU, NATO

Albanian Parliament speaker Josefina Topalli at RFE/RL today

February 9, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Special UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari has presented his proposal for limited statehood for Kosovo. Among the many parties with an interest in Kosovo's future status is neighboring Albania, which shares ethnic and linguistic ties with Kosovo's 90 percent majority Albanian population. Albanian parliament speaker Josefina Topalli spoke today with RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel.

RFE/RL: Has Tirana been able to play a role in helping to define Kosovo's future status -- perhaps by participating in talks with members of the six-nation Contact Group: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United States?

Josefina Topalli: As speaker of the parliament, I can say that for more than 50 years in our parliament we have always passed resolutions for the independence of Kosovo. During this time, yes, we have not been peripheric. We never wanted to have a patriarchal role, but at the same time we have been very active as politicians, as diplomats. Two weeks ago, I met Mr. Ahtisaari in Strasbourg. He had the opportunity to address the Assembly of the Council of Europe [on January 24] in a very important speech, in which you can understand immediately that the future status of Kosovo is that of a democratic country. He did not name the word "independence," but everybody in the plenary session understands that there is no other solution.

RFE/RL: As Serbs and Croats tried to carve out "Greater Serbia" and "Greater Croatia" in the 1990s, there was often speculation that Albanians in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia might try to do the same. This has not happened and some commentators say that politicians who do try to advocate union of Albania and Kosovo never gain much popularity, either in Kosovo or Albania. Why is that?

Topalli: Because I think there exists deep differences between the perceptions that some foreigners have of Albanians, and what Albanians themselves in Kosovo and Albania think about themselves and their future. Yes, it's true that we are all Albanians and we speak the same language. But during the decades we have lived in different realities. We have been separated for decades and decades, not allowing us to communicate with each other. And so, we [in Albania] have had the worst moment of our history, living in dictatorship and our dream was the change of the system. Kosovo has another dream for themselves: to be independent and to be separated from Serbia.

RFE/RL: During the 1990's, there was also much talk of the need to integrate the Balkans into larger European structures, such as the EU, and larger trans-Atlantic structures such as NATO. Large amounts of money were promised, for example, in the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, which was established in June 1999 by the European Commission. Today, there is uncertainty whether the EU will, or can, enlarge further, and NATO's focus is as much on Afghanistan as on the Balkans. Is Europe doing enough today to embrace the Balkans, or is progress disappointing?

Topalli: After the changes of 1989, the Albanian dream was to be part of the EU. And having these dreams, Albanians ran with these dreams during the years, very difficult and painful years, of the transition. We are very glad that in the last year we realized to sign and to ratify the stabilization association agreement, which is a very important step for Albanians. Now we see, we hear, and we read that especially the old member states of the EU have this fatigue over the problem of enlargement. But we, as Albanians, we are optimistic. We think that this moment will be overcome and that European politicians are pragmatic, [and will realize that] for them also, having the Western Balkans inside themselves is less expensive than having the Balkans outside.

RFE/RL: And in regard to NATO?

Topalli: We think that there are great chances to have this invitation [to join NATO], and this will be very helpful. We as Albanians are engaged with our troops in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I can understand the priority for NATO at the moment in Afghanistan. But at the same time we think that we have great chances to have the invitation in 2008, not only as Albanians but in the framework of the Adriatic Charter with Croatia and Macedonia. We are cooperating very closely with each other and we think that as the Adriatic Charter we will realize such a step.