Justice Arbour 'Reprimands' Ambassador Gelbard

Tribunal Update 65: Last Week in the Hague (February 23-28, 1998)

Justice Arbour 'Reprimands' Ambassador Gelbard

Tribunal Update 65: Last Week in the Hague (February 23-28, 1998)

Saturday, 28 February, 1998

The United States, the Ambassador said, "believes that a significant number of indictments will not stand up in court...we will not risk the lives of any soldier to try to apprehend indicted war criminals if we believe that the cases are weak."

The Tribunal reacted immediately in the guise of Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour. If such statements have been made - it is said in her statement, - published in the night between Friday and Saturday - "the Prosecutor regards them as without any foundation and purely speculative since no State, including the United States of America, has access to the evidence upon which the indictments have been confirmed."

With regards to the assessment "which of offenders are worth a risk", and which are not, Justice Arbour reminds Ambassador Gelbard that "arrest warrants issued by Judges of the Tribunal, upon the confirmation of indictments, constitute the legally binding and sufficient authority for the arrest of indicted accused and their surrender to the Tribunal."

In order to soften to some extent her "reprimand" of the Ambassador, Prosecutor Arbour concluded expressed gratitude "to all those who facilitate the arrest and surrender of indictees, including the United States and Ambassador Gelbard in particular."

Even though the U.S. administration is undoubtedly one of main advocates of the Tribunal, this is not the first time that "clumsy statements" of its officials have practically undermined the Tribunal's credibility.

A similar thing happened at the beginning of October 1997, when in the announcement of the U.S. government, guarantees were offered to Bosnian Croats who voluntarily surrender that "the Tribunal's Office of the Prosecutor is prepared to bring their cases to trial in no more than three to five months."

The Tribunal did not like such this announcement in the least, and its spokesman stressed in a statement (see Tribunal Update 46) that "no one, absolutely no one, can give guarantees on behalf of the Tribunal. Not even the Prosecutor!"

This has in the meantime proved to be true. Four days after the above mentioned announcement of the U.S. government was issued, on 6 October 1997, ten Bosnian Croats surrendered voluntarily to the Tribunal.

Three months have gone by, but the cases of Dario Kordic, Mario Cerkez, the three from Kupreskic and the other accused for whom the American "guarantees" were intended are still on the waiting list for the scheduling of the beginning of the trial.

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