18 June 1999
Canadian Joint Press Conference
Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Honourable Lloyd Axworthy: Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Lloyd Axworthy. Im the Foreign Affairs Minister from Canada. With me is our Defence Minister Art Eggleton and of course with us is Justice Louise Arbour whos the Chief Prosecutor for the International Tribunal for Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
Honourable Art Eggleton, Minister of National Defense
Justice Louise Arbour, Chief Prosecutor ICTY
We wanted to appear before you today to talk about particularly activity of the Tribunal as part of the settlement process thats going on in Kosovo. Canada is taking a strong and special interest in the work of the Tribunal, not just because of Justice Arbours points of origin but because its also been part of our broader agenda in establishing a sense of legal order and rule of law, and we think that the Tribunals role in Kosovo as well as in Bosnia has been instrumental in helping to bring about a sense of settlement.
We worked very hard last week, as the Canadian Delegation to the G8 meetings to ensure that there was a clear clause in the United Nations resolution that would set out the direct responsibilities of the Tribunal and to ensure that full cooperation was given.
And of course, to make that happen we have to work closely with KFOR which is now in a position to offer its services. We have spent the morning working and talking about this and in fact there has been an agreement reached that would provide for a much stronger pro-active relationship between KFOR and the Tribunal itself Justice Arbour, I think, will provide further comments, but it does really give the Tribunal a much stronger position than it had, for example, in Bosnia being able to carry out its investigations.
Theres also been, I think, a substantial commitment of resources. Forensic teams are now going in. A Canadian team made up of a number of RCMP officers will be arriving in Kosovo this weekend along with a group from the United States and from other countries to begin helping the Tribunal to begin developing evidence at this very sensitive and important time.
So, at the meetings of the Council that will take place later today, well, we will be dealing primarily with the Russian settlement. We will also be making sure that the full and complete arrangements with the, between the, Tribunal and KFOR are established.
Before turning it over to my colleague Minister Eggleton, I would also just like to comment on another issue which we think is of increasing priority and urgency and that is the need for rapid de-mining efforts going on. Reports show that theres been over 14-16 casualties of Kosovar refugees returning of some 5,000 that have come back to date. Theyre clearly running into these deadly killers that have been left behind by Yugoslav forces in that area. There is again, under the UN resolution, requirement for cooperation. But it really requires a much more active and rapid response, particularly in the area of humanitarian de-mining.
Again, we have made a commitment to the UN to start assessments but we believe, and we will be addressing this at the Council today, that there has to be a high level of mobilization on behalf of NATO countries to support the work of the UN and others in the de-mining area , otherwise there will be really a lot of victims. And, the whole point of the exercise was to prevent civilians from being harmed or victimized and therefore the issue of de-mining will be very much part of our settlement.
With that Id like to turn over to Art Eggleton for some comments.
Honourable Art Eggleton: Thank you very much.
Just by way of backgrounder, Id like to note that since 1991, the Canadian Armed Forces have made a consistent and substantial investment in the security and stability of the Balkans. Our commitment to this region will also continue. As a result of the peace settlement, Canadas overall personnel commitment to the Kosovo Peace Implementation Process now stands at 1300, a battle group as it is called, and some 300 vehicles. 800 of these soldiers are currently here already in the theatre of operations and the remaining 500 will follow in the next few weeks. And, that in fact, together with our contingent in Aviano and our contingent in the Adriatic will bring our contribution to the Balkans to over 3,000 troops.
And, our objective in this is clear: we want to ensure a safe and secure environment in which the Yugoslav people can live. There is an opportunity to build in the Balkans; something that the region hasnt experienced for a very long period of time and thats a future of stability on a foundation of peace.
Canada is recognized around the world for our peacekeeping involvements and we will do all that we can to see that the peace is preserved, that the refugees return to their homes and that the process of rebuilding Kosovo begins. And, Canada is making a vital contribution to the rebuilding of the region. Our Canadian Forces`engineers bring with them, and theres about 160 of them in the area right now. They bring an expertise of re-design and construction and they are working expeditiously to help clear the path for our troops, to help in restoring of basic infrastructure that is necessary for the refugees to return. Forces members are involved, as I said, in the clearance of obstacles and obstructions, and they are also involved in the important effort of de-mining. CF engineers are also capable of providing the expertise to rebuild and reconstruct the critical infrastructure in the hopes that some families will be able to return to their homes before winter sets in.
From the outset Canada followed a three-track approach. Weve contributed militarily, as Ive just outlined. We provide humanitarian assistance both to those who are in Kosovo, those who are in the adjacent countries, as well as some 5,000 refugees that weve welcomed into Canada. And we support the work of the International Criminal Tribunal. And, in that connection, I am pleased to announce today that Canada will provide two of our senior members to be part of a six to eight member liaison cell. This team will act as a liaison between the Commander of KFOR in Pristina and the International Criminal Tribunal, so that those responsible for the atrocities will, in deed, be held accountable. Some have suggested that this would mark the beginning of a new area of international affairs where human rights take precedence over state rights and the new doctrine of the international community emerges.
I hope that we can build on the lessons of Kosovo, and on international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention Against Genocide to bring about a world where basic human rights are not the privilege of citizenship but the birthright of humanity.
Thank you very much.
Justice Louise Arbour: Well, I had a meeting this morning with Secretary General Solana and Im very pleased that theres now been a decision by the NAC which will give an appropriate infrastructure through which NATO can discharge the mandate that in fact was given to it in the Security Council Resolution and in particular in the passage dealing with support for the Tribunal. You will recall that the Security Council demanded full cooperation by all parties including by the international military presence in Kosovo to the work of the Tribunal. I always had concerns that we had to ensure a proper political and legal framework within which this support would be forthcoming and of course to ensure that it was actually forthcoming on the ground in an operational fashion.
Ive had meetings in the past with General Jackson and Im very pleased at obviously everything is being done certainly in the early stages of the deployment of KFOR to assist my office. Im very pleased also that today, this decision certainly puts in place an acceptable, more than acceptable, infrastructure considerably different, I might add, to the one that was originally put in place to support the Tribunals activity in Bosnia.
So, the decision by the NAC today takes a considerably more, explicitly considerably more pro-active stand in supporting the efforts of the Tribunal including, if need be, on apprehension issues. It ranks the tasking of Tribunal support as a matter of high priority and to my particular satisfaction, it invites the possibility of re-examining the mandate given to SFOR to adopt in this new environment also a more pro-active stand in supporting Tribunal activity.
What has been uncovered, and is very much part of the public domain, in Kosovo since the re-insurgence of the international community is a matter obviously of great concern to all, and is a matter of particular concern to my office. We have solicited and received excellent response to our solicitation for support through appeals to all countries to provide us with forensic expertise that would allow us to deploy in a relevant time frame that is before there is extensive contamination of some of our sites, with forensic experts. We have people in place already, that is Tribunal, Office of the Prosecutor, staff members, who have been essentially deployed with KFOR right at the outset. We are expecting now, after all appropriate mechanisms were put in place, memorandum of understanding and so on with the various donor countries.
We are expecting to have on site, starting probably tomorrow, a contingent from the UK followed possibly Sunday by a large contingent also from the United States, and I believe Canada and France might be in a position also to have over the weekend, to have people they have committed to this task in Skopje ready to enter Kosovo. We had several sites prioritized for immediate attention. We are also obviously concerned and receptive to information to indicates that we may need to address other sites. Some of them have been brought to our attention by KFOR, who have been again very helpful in providing immediate transportation to our staff members, and have actually secured some of the sites that we are not in a position to exploit further at this stage.
So, todays decision was very critical to ensure that both in the short term and in the longer term, we had the appropriate endorsement and commitment on the part of the NAC for the operations conducted by my office in Kosovo.
Questions and Answers:
David Shukman, BBC: Question to Louise Arbour if I may, in fact two questions. Do you have a revise estimate for the total death toll in Kosovo? How many people do you think now have been killed in these various massacres? And, secondly, does the peace deal make it more or less likely that Milosevic, who you indicted a few weeks ago, will ever be brought to face trial?
Justice Louise Arbour: Well, on the first question, I think too much information is being accessed too rapidly to put an estimate today or tomorrow. And, in fact, our primary task is not one of accounting, its one of examination, of investigation and proper assessment and transforming, in legal terms that is, in charges in an indictment the information that we find. So, Im afraid Im not in a position to confirm estimates that I understand are coming from different sources. This is very much for us a work in progress and I cant give you any numbers.
As to the possibility of bringing to justice those who have been charged, and those who will be charged in the future, Ive made very clear that the indictment that we brought at the end of May was very much a first chapter in our Kosovo investigation. I think its premature to speculate on the mechanisms that may be available to the international community, all of which is unnoticed on the existence of these charges and the need to execute the existing arrest warrant. So, I cannot predict in what fashion these arrest warrants will be executed but I certainly expect, as I believe, the Security Council does, it was very explicit in its resolution, expect all member states to discharge their obligations, that obviously includes the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Radio-France Internationale: Madame Arbour, en franais sil-vous-plat pour Radio-France Internationale. Je vous demandrais si vous voulez bien de rpter le dispositif aujourdhui du tribunal au Kosovo et lassistance que vous recevez dautres pays, et puis une deuxime question, si vous voulez bien sur la Bosnie, est-ce que vous esprez avoir en Bosnie le type daccord que vous avez avec la KFOR. Est-ce que a conduirait larrestation de Karadzic?
Justice Louise Arbour: Et bien, jai mentionn tantt que jespre en effet que le mandat original qui avait t dcern la SFOR aprs les Accords de Dayton, pourrait possiblement tre revis dans lesprit dun mandat beaucoup plus appropri mon avis qui est maintenant dcern aux forces dployes au Kosovo. Je pense que le prcdent du Kosovo nous permettra peut-tre de rviser un mandat qui tait beaucoup plus ambigu et qui, bien quil est bien appliqu maintenant dans la ralit, devrait probablement tre plus explicite, et sil tait plus explicite devrait permettre des initiatives darrestations plus satisfaisantes , y compris mon avis pour monsieur Karadzic, qui est toujours ma connaissance sur le territoire de la Bosnie et qui devrait tre arrt.
Votre premire question?
Radio-France Internationale: Cest sur le dispositif. De combien denquteurs disposez-vous actuellement sur les terrains et combien en attendez-vous?
Justice Louise Arbour: Oui, nous avons prsentement, dabord nous tions rassembl Skopje, y compris plusieurs des enquteurs qui taient auparavant en Albanie ont t rassigns Skopje, pour pouvoir entrer au Kosovo le plus rapidement possible. La situation volue dheure en heure alors je ne peux pas vous dire exactement combien jai de personnes de mon bureau, mais probablement peut-tre une dizaine qui sont prsentement au Kosovo. Maintenant, on sattend ce que commenant demain matin certaines des quipes importantes qui ont t mises notre disposition par la Grande-Bretagne, les tats-Unis, le Canada, la France et dautres, mais ces quatre-l sont dj en position dtre ou bien dj Skopje. Je pense que les Britanniques sont dj Skopje, les Amricains devraient peut-tre tre l dimanche et je pense que la France et le Canada on sattend ce quils soient dj sur place pendant la fin de semaine, et ils devraient pouvoir entrer au Kosovo dune minute lautre. La principale difficult, cest que le tribunal comme tel, on a pas une infrastructure sur place qui nous permette de nous hberger. Alors, on sattend ce que dans les premiers jours de leur mission, ces quipes scientifiques soient hberges dans lenvironnement de la force de lOTAN avec leur contingent national, jusqu ce quon puisse si possible leur donner des facilits de travail autres. Mais, on na pas encore sur place suffisamment de logements, de vhicules, pour les soutenir sans lassistance de la force KFOR.
Margaret Evans, Canadian Broadcasting: It seems that youre not going to have the same kind of difficulties that you had in terms of investigations in Kosovo, but is it not the case that really those people who will in the future be indicted by your office are being sheparded out of Kosovo by NATO troops for obvious reasons? How do you feel about that? Does it make it less likely that youre going to actually be able to secure indictments given that they are going to be in Serbia, not in Kosovo? And, can you be more specific about what you mention apprehension that you feel more confident that there will be a better structure in terms of actually apprehending these criminals. What do you mean by that?
Justice Louise Arbour: Well, its very difficult to speculate as to what kind of opportunities for apprehension will present themselves in the future. I think one has to be careful in suggesting in any way that anybody is complicite in possible suspected war criminals being escorted out of a territory over which an international military force may have jurisdiction. Its very much a compromise, until this peace agreement, my office had no access to Kosovo, in fact hadnt had any access since about October, November of last year. We never seriously expected that we can have everything frozen in time including the freezing presence of persons who may be suspected of war crimes, but who may not be indicted for years, for months, for years, or even possibly never by us. I mean there is a limit to the number of people that we will be able to bring to account before this international forum. There are a lot of rebuilding issues in Kosovo and in Serbia generally, including an appropriate criminal justice system that would be able to be an appropriate partner to the international community complementarity is a feature of the prospective prominent court, is very much a feature of the tribunal. We were never expected or set up to bring to account all perpetrators. So, the fact that some potential suspect and potential indictees are leaving Kosovo to reenter Serbia proper, the rest of Serbia, and may therefore make themselves inaccessible is just a reality of the fact that we cannot investigate fast enough to guarantee access to everybody that we may eventually want to bring into account. Im very confident that with existing arrest warrant search, all states freezing orders, served to all states against five very high ranking accused and every likelihood that more charges against more accused will be forthcoming, that Im very confident that some of these cases will be triad, but I cannot be very explicite obviously about which strategy I would want to put in place to facilitate their apprehension at this stage.
Honourable Lloyd Axworthy: On the second part of your question, the Council decision this morning was to require the military authorities serving in KFOR to report back to the Council with urgency the exact scope and implications which would be applied for the apprehension of war criminals in Kosovo. Now, theres a much clearer, precise and more definite set of instructions than were taking place under SFOR, having gone through that debate a couple of years back. It clearly puts the onus on the military authorities to come back to the Council in terms of implementing the requirements under 1244 of the UN resolution.
Honourable Art Eggleton: I think theres every intention of the military to be pro-active in this case, and thats quite a difference from the way it was in Bosnia.
Hillary Mackenzie, Southam News: Is there no way though that you can get at the retreating Serbs and actually apprehend them? I mean.
Justice Louise Arbour: Well, under the legal infrastructure under which we operate, the prosecutor has the authority to request a state or an alliance of state, such as KFOR possibly, to apprehend suspects, but even that is not obviously a completely arbitrary exercise, the prosecutor has to be in a position to very immediately satisfy the court that there are reasonable basis to justify this kind of operation that could otherwise appear to be high handed. I mean, you cant just have unfounded accusations under which you would then report to exercise the power to detain indefinitely. So, we have a very narrow window of opportunities for arresting prior to a formal indictment being confirmed by the court, and frankly we are just not in a position in light of the speed at which this withdrawal is being undertaken and our inability to access the region ,and of course the fact that for the first time in this Kosovo investigation, we focus all of our energy in indicting from the top down rather than from the bottom up. We arent particularly well-equipped at this stage to put our hands even in that fashion on lower level perpetrators. So, this is essentially a trade-off in that investigation.
Hillary Mackenzie, Southam News: But the ones that you have indicted, can you nab them?
Justice Louise Arbour: I have no basis to believe that Milosevic, Milutinovic, Sinovic, Idanic or Stoikanovic are in Kosovo.
Bettina Vestring, Berliner Zeitung: Madame Arbour, two questions if I may, can you give us your first impression of what your investigators may have heard now of Kosovo? Do you feel that systematically war crimes have been perpetrated? Is it a question of genocide as well? This is an issue thats come up again and again. And the second question, can you give us any information on wether any countries has been forthcoming in freezing accounts of the five indictees?
Justice Louise Arbour: With respect to the first question, when we brought the charges that we brought at the end of May, these charges included counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, but not genocide. We have a very sophisticated review within the Office of the Prosecutor within the existing evidence in an attempt obviously to properly characterize this evidence in an appropriate charging framework. We have never excluded the possibility of framing the charges under the genocide convention, and of course, we always made clear that whatever we uncover when were finally be granted access would of course be very relevant to that exercise. I dont think its a secret that what is being uncovered on the ground is of very troubling order of magnitude and we will certainly want to reassess particularly when it comes to homicides, murders. We have brought over 340 specific murder charges against these five accused involving named and identified victims. We now of course must continue this task and we will examine wether it would be appropriate to in a sense upgrade some of the existing charges and bring more serious charges against these and other accused.
Bettina Vestring, Berliner Zeitung: About the accounts being frozen?
Justice Louise Arbour: I will not reveal or disclose any progress of any investigation. We obtain this order, we intend to be very pro-active in pursuing any opportunity. The order we obtained requires all states to search for and if so find to freeze on a provisional basis any asset of the named accused and we intend of course to be very pro-active within our means in pursuing this issue. But, I cannot reveal where we are at on this issue.
Journal Italy: Mrs. Arbour, Im not clear about one point. Juridically speaking, was this the difference between the arrangements you had with SFOR, that clearly had not worked, and the arrangements youre satisfied with, with KFOR?
Justice Louise Arbour: First of all, well let me make clear that Im not taking the position that the arrangements made with SFOR have not worked. They were slow to be make to work. I was very concerned about that obviously when I came into office in the fall of 1996, at that point SFOR had never effected any arrest under a mandate that never changed. And, that mandate was essentially to apprehend the indictees, persons indicted by the tribunal, if the occasion, if they encountered them in the regular course of their duties without undue risk. That mandate which was I suppose capable of either a very pro-active interpretation or a very conservative interpretation is now being interpreted in a more appropriate fashion as far as Im concerned. There has been several arrests by SFOR. It remains that the framework in my view is unduly prudent and restrictive and does not signal what is the political will. It appears to be a framework that is very neutral on its face and very dependent frankly on the office holders at various levels, SACEUR, COMSFOR , and the various politicians who inform these decisions. What I was looking for in this instance, and I believe that we have achieve that consensus, is a mandate that is politically a lot more explicit, and its explicit in the sense that first of all the Security Councils resolution demands cooperation and decision, as I understand it now, lists as a priority supporting task the assistance of the tribunal and recommend a more pro-active stands with respect to apprehension. That to me is a considerable step in the right direction, a much more politically explicit statement of endorsement and discharge of the Security Councils resolution demanding this kind of cooperation, but I dont want to suggest that SFOR has not in the current environment gone a considerable distance within a mandate that was not as explicit in assisting our work both in providing security for exhumations for instance and to a more limited extend in arrest initiatives.