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New Prosecutor Nominated

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan proposes Carla Del Ponte, the Swiss attorney general, to succeed Louie Arbour as chief prosecutor.
By IWPR

Unless unpredictable complications arise in the Security Council, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda may get a new Chief Prosecutor over the course of the next few days.


UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last week proposed Switzerland's Attorney General Carla Del Ponte, 52, to the Security Council as his only candidate.


"I was looking for a strong and experienced prosecutor and I think she is very good," Annan stated after his meeting last week with the Swiss Attorney General at the UN in New York.


Since the Annan routinely consults with council members before making such important nominations, one is to expect that he had obtained their approval before publicly announcing the nomination.


There was talk in the diplomatic circles two weeks ago that Del Ponte enjoys the backing of the US, France, and even Russia, whilst it was said that China "will not be against." Malicious rumours have attributed Russia's support for her promotion to The Hague, to investigations she had launched into money laundering as part of the Swiss side of investigating a Russian corruption scandal which is believed to have originated in the Kremlin.


The fact that Switzerland is not a member of the UN was not deemed to be a problem. In fact it proved to be to the candidate's advantage. With relations between Russia and China, on the one hand, and the West, on the other, being at their coolest for years, it was clear neither Moscow nor Beijing would agree to a candidate from a member-state of NATO. At the same time, it was clear, though not articulated, that the West would not accept a prosecutor from a former "Eastern block".


As a non-UN non-NATO country, Switzerland's candidate is therefore acceptable to all. Judging by the reputation that she has earned in Switzerland - as an independent and determined crusader against organised crime, money laundering and drug trafficking - Carla Del Ponte might be a good solution for ICTY and the ICTR. Indeed, her reputation indicates that despite the current revival of Cold War divisions and suspicions at the Security Council, Carla Del Ponte is not a compromise solution born out of necessity.


The ICTY's Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) expects that the new Prosecutor will arrive at The Hague at the end of this month, in order to take over the duty over the next two weeks from Louise Arbour, who will take up the post of the judge of Canada's Supreme Court on 15 September.


The first task of the new Prosecutor will be to familiarise herself with the status of the investigations that are underway in order to be able to determine her priorities.


The OTP refuses to reveal how many investigations are currently Ongoing. They only say that there are 10 investigative teams -each of which is dealing with "at least one case".


According to sources at The Hague, two investigations are underway in Kosovo: one into the crimes cited in the indictment against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his four associates; and the other into other crimes that may be a subject of new indictments, both against the Serbian forces and against the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).


Deputy Prosecutor Graham Blewitt stated last week that the OTP is "very alert to the possibility that the KLA are themselves undertaking an ethnic cleansing campaign under the guise of revenge attacks. If that is an official policy of the KLA, then clearly it falls within our jurisdiction and forms a part of our investigation. And I am saying that in the hope that it may act as a deterrent."


While two investigations are being conducted in Kosovo, the others -estimated to be somewhere between 8 and 18 - are ongoing in relation to the crimes committed during the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. From what Arbour herself has publicly stated about the documents she has been unsuccessfully requesting from Croatia, it is not difficult to conclude that the investigations into possible war crimes committed during and after the operations "Flash" and "Storm", as well as those about the events in Gospic and Medak Pocket are underway.


Judging by the Prosecutor's publicly expressed interest in the documents from the trial in absentia which Croatia staged to General Momcilo Perisic, it can also be concluded that the investigations into the role of the Yugoslav Army in the shelling of Zadar (1991) and Mostar (1992) are also underway.


Moreover, it is certain that the Prosecution is still not yet finished with Srebrenica. Three indictments have been issued so far: Karadzic & Mladic, Erdemovic and General Krstic.


It is certain too - Arbour has said so herself - that the May indictment against Milosevic is not the Prosecution's last word on his responsibility or that of the Serbian political and military leadership - not only for the Kosovo crimes, but also for those committed during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.


The new Prosecutor should not then be short of work.


If the Security Council confirms her nomination, Carla Del Ponte will be the first ICTY-ICTR Chief Prosecutor to assume that office with a several years' experience as a prosecutor. Her predecessors, Richard Goldstone and Louise Arbour both assumed office having been judges -albeit with the experience of participating in various investigative commissions: Goldstone in the commission investigating police violence in South Africa and Arbour in the commission examining the state of women's prisons in Canada.


All that could be learnt over the past several days about the Swiss nominee points to the fact that Carla Del Ponte will continue to move steadily up the ladder of responsibility. Since Goldstone indicted both Karadzic and Mladic and Arbour Milosevic, Del Ponte's appointment could be bad news for other Balkan "VIPs" who might be guilty of war crimes. And not only for them personally, but also for their secret accounts in the Swiss and other banks, which has been one of the neglected aspects in the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes. Of 65 publicly accused thus far, the court order blocking overseas accounts of indictees has only been issued for Milosevic and his four assistants.


Carla Del Ponte's work at The Hague will be that much easier than it was for her predecessors. Not only will she inherit an experienced and professional office - both in terms of personnel and funding (a staff of 348 and an annual budget close to 30 million) - she can now count on a much stronger international support than that given Goldstone in 1994 and Arbour in 1996.


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