Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Carla Del Ponte Takes Over Duty

Tribunal Update 143: Last Week in The Hague (13-18 September, 1999)

Though her predecessor Louise Arbour "had fairly consistent security" after the outbreak of the Kosovo crisis, according to Prosecution Spokesman Paul Risley the stepped-up security for Del Ponte reflected possible threats from enemies she may have made in her former job, as Switzerland's attorney general. "Madame Del Ponte brings very specific security considerations due to her previous job in Switzerland," Risley told reporters.

The next day, Thursday, Carla Del Ponte made a short "initial appearance" before the media. She literally passed running in front of their cameras, pleading that it was still too early for her to make statements or be exposed to their cross-examination.

She only said: "I just began yesterday afternoon and all this morning I had a lot of meetings. I am listening and studying new tasks and challenges from this Tribunal. I saw a very good crew to go on with the work of Louise Arbour. I am confident."

Del Ponte asked journalists to be patient for two to three weeks, after when she will be ready to take questions. On hearing this, the journalists sighed with relief: an earlier announcement from her office in Bern had said the new Prosecutor would not be making public statements for her "first one hundred days" in the job.

Just before Del Ponte took over, her predecessor Louise Arbour submitted her last report on the two Tribunals to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council in New York.

She wrapped up her three-year tenure by stressing the importance of a permanent international criminal court. "Ad hoc tribunals set up to prosecute war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda have helped put an end to the culture of impunity and abuse of power among political and military leaders," she wrote. "But," she added, "until we have a permanent, standing institution, we will not have achieved, I think, the full capacity that criminal justice can bring to bear on these issues."

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