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Prosecutor Dismisses 'Backpedalling' on NATO Dossier

Chief Prosecutor Del Ponte insists that she is fully reviewing the file on alleged "war crimes" by NATO during the Kosovo bombing campaign.

In an interview, Tribunal Update asked ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte to clarify the position on the famous "dossier" on alleged breaches of the Geneva Conventions by NATO forces during the air strikes on Serbia.

TU asked whether she had studied the evidence, drawn any conclusions and whether the fierce criticism levelled against her by some in Washington, D.C., had caused her to "backpedal" on the issue - as claimed by U.S. Senator Jesse Helms.

"First I will tell you something: I never backpedal, never, never! If the press received it in some other way - that is another question. I am not responsible for that. I have only one voice and I am always saying the same." Del Ponte insisted.

"What I said in that interview [to London's Observer newspaper on December 26, 1999] was that no formal investigation is opened against NATO, that is, against individuals of NATO. I said that to the journalist: No formal inquiry. I said I have just received a preliminary report on the documentation and complaints that [former Chief Prosecutor Louise] Arbour had received from many different sources."

"Second, I said I would read it and take a decision. But in the meantime I received Professor Mandel here and he brought to me another pile of documents. A few day before Christmas I received a group of members from the Russian parliament who brought me a lot of new documents. They told me that the Duma had created an inquiry commission, which is working together with Belgrade, so they have a lot of information."

"I gave all those documents to the same working group in our office to analyse them. They are doing that now."

"In the meantime I studied the first report and for it I need some answers from NATO. So I was in Brussels and spoke with the people there and said I have some questions on which I needed answers. So now we are preparing the questions and we will send them to NATO."

"In the meantime I am waiting for the second report and an analysis of the other documentation. And after, when I finish my work on the preliminary analysis of that, I will take a decision on whether I must or not open an investigation." As for backpedalling, the judge remonstrated, "E una bruta parola. [It is an ugly word]. . . . I pedal only forwards."

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