Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
At a press conference in Belgrade last Wednesday, Arkan announced that he would sue CNN for its half-hour programme, "Wanted", which portrayed him as a war criminal. Waving the certificate, Arkan's "foreign affairs spokesman" Giovanni Di Stefano was deliberately vague in his interpretation of the contents of the letter from The Hague.
Local reporters had a different interpretation: some say it is a "certificate that Arkan is not on the list of suspects," while others conclude that "he is not on any list of war criminals."
Di Stefano - an Italian businessman who during the war saw a business opportunity in the sanctions imposed on Serbia and links with local parapolitical and paramilitary underground - was less vague when he asked the Tribunal for the "certificate". On the contrary, he was very precise.
First in a telephone conversation with Tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier, and then in a fax message addressed to the Office of the Prosecutor, Di Stefano asked for confirmation in writing that "as of the time of writing no warrant has yet been issued by the Tribunal for the arrest of Mr Raznatovic."
In order to receive from The Hague the answer he wanted, Di Stefano played safe by adding that he was not asking "whether the Prosecutor is currently investigating any alleged offences purportedly committed by Mr Raznatovic."
Di Stefano got what he wanted-a fax from The Hague which read as follows:
As a reply to your phone inquiry and to the fax you sent us earlier today, and as a follow-up to our phone conversation, I inform you in writing, as requested, that the name Raznatovic is not on the list of the persons indicted to date by the ICTY. This list is a public document and I attach to this fax a copy of it.
So, the ICTY certificate only confirms what author Christiane Amanpour and her interviewees US peace negotiator Richard Holbrooke and Prof. Cherif Bassouni (former head of the UN Commission of Experts) said in the CNN programme: that Arkan is not among the 74 people the Tribunal has indicted so far.
The difference is that Amanpour, Holbrooke and Bassiouni said it with amazement, while Chartier-who, as the Tribunal's spokesman does not have the right to be amazed - simply established the state of affairs on May 27, 1997, when he signed and sent the "certificate" two weeks later, the state of affairs is the same: Arkan has not yet been indicted.
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