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6 Oct. 1997

Transcript: Joint Press Conference

6 October1997, 1100 Hours
Coalition Press Information Centre
Holiday Inn, Sarajevo

Simon Haselock, OHR: Good morning everybody. A couple of points for you this morning; obviously the first one concerns the current situation with the media and SRT specifically. We are currently developing a strategy in accordance with various countries of the international community of the Peace Implementation Council, which will address the whole question of political influence over the whole media landscape of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The strategy which we'll be putting forward will not just be a specific towards SRT, which is clearly, at the moment, the most egregious offender, but will be concern the restructuring of the whole of the media of Bosnia. These recommendations and restructuring measures will be promulgated soon, and once an agreement has been made, full agreement has been made with the Peace Implementation Council through the Steering Board. As far as SRT is concerned, specifically, the High Representative Mr. Carlos Westendorp has had a number of conversations with Mr. Krajisnik, with the intention being for him to come to Sarajevo to address the specific restructuring issues of which we'll refer to SRT. He has so far refused to come, and that is why, at this current moment, that SRT Pale will continue to be suspended from the Republika Srpska television network until we are able to engage in a serious and meaningful manner with Mr. Krajisnik over this issue.

There will be a number of measures which we will expect him to deliver, and I don't intend, at this stage, to tell you what those criteria are until we are in position to present them, as I've said to you before, to Mr. Krajisnik. At the moment, until Mr. Krajisnik comes to Sarajevo to meet with Mr. Westendorp, the situation is unlikely to be resolved.

The second point that I would like to make is to basically welcome the news that you've all heard this morning of the move of those Croats who have been indicted for war crimes in the Vitez area. Certainly in principle, we welcome the notion that people should voluntarily, or their governments themselves, should encourage these people to present themselves to the Hague, and therefore, in that context, we see this as a welcome and a progressive move forward.

Thank you very much.

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: Just on the Bosnian Croats, it is the Tribunal's understanding that 10 people indicted by the Tribunal have left Split just after 10 o'clock on a flight on route to the Hague. They are being accompanied by an ICTY representative, and standard legal procedures are underway. They're expected to be in the ICTY detention center early this afternoon, so please keep in touch with my office and I'll brief you accordingly. Thank you.

Maj. Riley, SFOR: Good morning everyone. Over the last week, SFOR conduced 51 weapons storage site inspections; 25 ABiH, 21 HVO and 5 VRS. SFOR monitored 17 VRS training and movement activities. SFOR has imposed a ban on all Federation training and movement as the Federation authorities have not responded to a letter from the Commander SFOR, asking them to verify that they have no Prisoners of War in any facility. SFOR is aggressively pursuing resolution of this matter. The Federation was required to respond to this letter in early September. It has failed to respond to several reminders.

They will not be granted permission for training and movement, except for demining or movement in support of OSCE weapons reductions operations. SFOR is resolute in determining that there are no unlawfully detained persons, anywhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Talk of demining, SFOR monitored 152 demining activities. All but 7 were deemed effective. One VRS activity was ruined by foul weather. One ABiH, 2 HVO and 3 VRS activities were aborted by the factions without prior notice and the investigations are ongoing.

Now, I want to address the article in the New York Times which was repeated in the International Herald Tribune on Saturday. The clear implication of the article suggests that the Bosnian Muslim Government is intensifying a clandestine program to arm and train its military forces and that they are close to, or may have already reached the ability to mount a crushing offensive against the ethnic Serbs' region of Bosnia.

The article is very interesting but fails to represent an accurate picture of the military situation in Bosnia, nor of SFOR's capability and resolve to enforce the military aspects of the DPA, as dictated by Annex 1A.

First let me deal with training. There is nothing in Annex 1A which prevents a foreign government hosting training in its own country for elements of the entity armies. We have no information to suggest that any such training is in fact taking place.

Concerning equipment, the suggestion that the Bosnian Muslim government attempted to smuggle 10 T55 tanks into Bosnia through the Croatian port of Ploce stretches the imagination. Certainly, a ship bearing the Ukrainian flag is awaiting clearance to dock pending the resolution of problems with the cargo manifest. This is not the first time that such problems have occurred. The smuggling of main battle tanks through the port of Ploce does not bear credibility, in addition, we have no knowledge of equipment being shipped through the port of Rijeka.

The Federation Army regularly submits applications for small arms import licenses. They have no need to undertake difficult smuggling operations.

Currently, the Federation army is under its entitlement for main battle tanks, even if the 10 T55 tanks are included. The suggestion that Treaty Limited Equipment can be secretly moved into Bosnia is wrong. SFOR checks all entries at the port of disembarkation, at the border of Bosnia-Herzegovina and at the pre-arranged cantonment sites, where they are regularly re-inspected.

A final church announcement; we would like to invite journalists to a press conference tomorrow at 2 p.m. with German Defense Minister Volker Ruhe. The press conference should last about 30 minutes with a question and answer session, and there will be sequential translation from English to Bosnian.

That's all I have. Thank You.

Simon Haselock, OHR: I'd like to now give Johan the opportunity to make his first remarks as the principle spokesman for the OSCE.

Johan Verheyden, OSCE: Thank you. Actually, I don't have any opening remarks except for an error that occurred in yesterday's press release. In municipality number 35, Celinac, Mr. Rade Mikac has only one seat and not the three we've reported, because Mr. Rade Mikac is an independent candidate. Copies that have been distributed today, I've already corrected that. It was in the press release that was distributed yesterday. That's all I have.

Kris Janowski, UNHCR: No points from UNHCR.

Simon Haselock, OHR: Questions please...

(Colin Soloway - US News) Q: Alex, can you give us some more details on the movement of these Croats; how did they get down to Split, were they helped or escorted by SFOR or any international organizations, when did they arrive in Split...?

Also, on the question of the various deals that the Americans seemed to have guaranteed on behalf of the ICTY for all of these guys going to trial within the next three to six months...

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: As far as I understand, they arrived in Split by themselves. They were not escorted by anybody. They're currently being accompanied by an ICTY representative, and I can say here that there were no deals struck by the ICTY or the Office of the Prosecutor, specifically. The only thing that the Office of the Prosecutor can say is that it will provide its case to the Tribunal in the time frame that has been mentioned in the press, which is from three to five months.

(Colin Soloway - US News) Q: I'm sorry, you will provide...

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: The Office of the Prosecutor will provide its case to the Tribunal, to the Trial Chambers, in three to five to months, but it's up to the Trial Chambers to specifically set a date for the trial and to agree as to how long the trial will last.

(Colin Soloway - US News) Q: What about the whereabouts of Ivica Rajic? At this point, he seems to be the last of these guys.

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: As far as I understand, he is the only Bosnian Croat that is not on his way to the Hague or in the Hague, and I'm not aware of his whereabouts.

Q: Simon, is there some deadline for Momcilo Krajisnik to come to meet Westendorp, and how long are you planning to wait for him?

Simon Haselock, OHR: There is no deadline. The simple reality is, is that until he comes to negotiate, or not even to negotiate; until he comes to receive the restructuring criteria which we are going to present to him. It is quite simple, that Pale and its television network will not function until he's prepared to come and agree to the criteria which we are going to present to him for the restructuring of SRT, and that is what will happen. There is no need for a deadline. The ball is very firmly and very squarely in his court.

(Yasin Rawashdeh - KUNA) Q: Can you provide us with the names of the 10 Croats, or if Dario Kordic is one of them?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: As far as the ICTY understands, Kordic is allegedly on the plane. The names will be provided once their identification is checked, and there will be a press release somewhere between 1 and 2 p.m., which we will then send out to all of the agencies here.

(Chris Stephen - AFP) Q: SFOR, do you have any evidence of prisoners, specifically, in detention at the moment? Is this measure, in some way, a sort of fulcrum to encourage the Bosnians to give them up?

Maj. Riley, SFOR: No, we've got no evidence, Chris, but you're aware of the release of two prisoners of war, I think last month. Alex can give...

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: The Zenica case, which happened in early September, where two Bosnian Serbs were found in a detention facility in Zenica, run by the Army of the BiH.

Maj. Riley, SFOR: As a result, we are making the Federation Armies examine their own procedures to make sure that this case is not repeated, and we're looking for assurances from them to that end. To date, we have failed to receive those assurances.

(Lee Hockstader - Washington Post) Q: Alex, on the Hague indictees, some details; upon arriving in Split, were they placed under arrest or under detention? At what point will they be considered under arrest or under detention?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: My understanding is that they will be considered under ICTY detention upon arrival in the Hague.

(Lee Hockstader - Washington Post) Q: So, in other words, on this flight, they're not under arrest; they're not in handcuffs?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: There is an ICTY representative, but you are correct, they will be placed under detention upon arrival in the Hague.

(Lee Hockstader - Washington Post) Q: And was it a regularly scheduled flight? What kind of flight was it?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: It wasn't a regularly scheduled flight, but that's as far as I will go on that one.

(Lee Hockstader - Washington Post) Q: This is an airplane that was provided by the court?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: As a matter of policy, the ICTY does not discuss travel arrangements for indictees.

(Dan Deluce - Reuters) Q: Just for the record, who exactly negotiated or discussed the issue of prompt presentation of the case, this three to five month time period? This was discussed between who and who? Who was this offered to? Was Mr. Kordic told, "don't worry, your case will be presented in three to five months"? Was Mr. Tudjman told this, and who told Mr. Tudjman this?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: First, I'd like to refer you to a statement made by the State Department Spokesman, Mr. Foley, not David, but a different Foley, in Washington a couple of days ago, and all the Tribunal is prepared to say is that it is able to provide evidence in the court in three to five months from the arrival of the indictees to the Hague. But again, the whole timeline is an issue for the Trail Chambers.

(Dan Deluce - Reuters) Q: This issue came up much earlier, didn't it? Several months ago, didn't a group of these indictees in Vitez present a letter to, I think Michael Steiner at the time, saying that they were ready to go to the Hague if they could be assured of a relatively prompt trial?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: I can't speak on the behalf of the Office of the High Representative. All I can say is that there are discussions between the Hague and national governments, and the Hague does not go into the details of such discussions.

(Dan Deluce - Reuters) Q: On a broader front, Alex, where does this put the effort to prosecute suspected war criminals? This is quite a step forward, I would think, for the Tribunal? How do you see this in the context of the Tribunal's efforts, and so on?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: It's a very important of a very welcome step that 10 indictees have decided to surrender voluntarily. It now puts the limelight on the authorities in the Republika Srpska, as well as in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who are continuing to be in violation of the Dayton Agreement, and who are continuing to refuse to surrender those indicted by the Hague Tribunal, who reside under territory.

Simon Haselock, OHR: I would like to make a couple of remarks as well. Essentially, it shouldn't be seen in isolation. We clearly also, very, very much welcome this step forward. The way it should be seen is that there is a recognition now that there are a number of things that need to be done to break what has essentially been an impass, in terms of moving the peace process forward in a meaningful sense. We've had the military stabilization, we've had this restructuring and rebuilding of common institutions, and now we need the political will on behalf of all parties to actually make those common institutions work. There are a number of areas which have been seen and which are clearly a blockage in moving that process forward. The first is war criminals, or the existence of the indictees within the community, and their influence upon the political process. The second two are those which relate, cascade from that, and that is the use of the media as the agent of those people, and the police. Therefore, you have seen over the recent weeks, a more forceful policy in taking forward, dealing with those three issues. That is the moving of the indicted war criminals to the Hague, the improving and restructuring of the media in such a fashion that it removes it from the political control of those people who are holding back the peace process, and a more aggressive approach to the restructuring of the police force, which particularly in the Republika Srpska, has held back the peace implementation process there.

(Dan Deluce - Reuters) Q: Kris Janowski, do you have anything to add as far as the refugee question? Often, suspected war criminals and their allies have been mentioned as obstacles, as people who obstruct the return of refugees. In this case, in Mostar and in the Federation. Will this have any effect, you think?

Kris Janowski, UNHCR: Yes, we think that the arrest of the indictees will have an effect on decisions that people make on whether to return home or not. If you can imagine yourself being in a situation of a refugee from Srebrenica, for example, with the person indicted for that crime still being at large, you're certainly not very much inclined to go back there. The arrests are a very welcomed development, and I'm sure a lot of refugees and displaced people will have more trust in some sort of law and order in the future in the country, and also some more trust in the protection of their rights, once these people have been arrested and brought to trial.

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: Just to add to that, for example, after the Prijedor operation, it is our view that the situation has dramatically changed for the better in Prijedor. The local authorities are much more cooperative, and after Simo Drljaca is no longer a part of the local police picture there, our relationship with the local police in Prijedor has improved dramatically.

Q: I think there's one concern about the latest news of the Bosnian Croats, and that is that if the process, whereby suspects who give themselves up voluntarily, only comes after protracted behind the scenes negotiations and diplomacy, isn't there a concern that this whole procedure is not seen to be open, and that future procedures, future suspects, could only give themselves up if they are given certain assurances? In other words, their hand over will not be unconditional as the Hague Tribunal insisted it should be.

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: Their hand over is unconditional. There were no negotiations with the indictees with reference to the indictments themselves. The only thing that the Office of the Prosecutor is prepared to do is to present its case in a court of law in a period within three and five months. That is the only thing that the Office of the Prosecutor is prepared to do. There were no discussions, no negotiations, with regard to the indictments themselves between the Office of the Prosecutor and the indictees.

Q: Do you have any information that other indictees are now ready to hand themselves over?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: As you know, for operational reasons, the Tribunal never discusses such details. As soon as anybody else decides to hand themselves over to the Hague, we will inform you promptly.

We of course urge all other indictees to surrender to the Hague.

(Chris Stephen - AFP) Q: Alex, I'm just wondering, do you have plea bargaining in the Hague? Can these guys go in there and say, "well, I can give you stuff on Susak or on Tudjman", or somebody to reduce the sentence, or is that something that is not in your mandate?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: As far as I understand the rules and regulations of the Tribunal, there is no plea bargaining.

(Chris Stephen - AFP) Q: Is that for absolute sure?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: I'll have to go through the rules and regulations again, which is about 60 pages, but as far as I remember, there is no plea bargaining. Give me a call later, and I'll tell you for sure.

(Chris Stephen - AFP) Q: There's no question that some of these guys have been told "look, if you come to the Hague, say the right things, do it voluntarily, we can cut your sentence"?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: As far as I understand, the rules of the Tribunal, there is no plea bargaining, period.

(Chris Stephen - AFP) Q: And were there any negotiations between ICTY and the defendants, maybe through a intermediary, about what sort of sentences they could expect.

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: As far as I understand, the Tribunal is not involved in any such discussions.

Simon Haselock, OHR: All the diplomacy on this issue is based upon the principle that the administration of this has to be done in a most expeditious fashion. It is not unreasonable that if you expect people to present themselves to be tried on an indictment, that they should be tried and the evidence presented in a way that doesn't have them hanging around for too long, and that's the same in the Hague as it is in any country in the world. Keeping people for a long time on remand is hardly conducive to giving themselves up.

(Colin Soloway - US News) Q: Alex, how much of a factor, in terms of these guys turning themselves in, how much of a factor was the Prijedor operation and the realization that SFOR was actually willing to start going after people?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: I think it's extremely important that the Prijedor operation actually showed those indicted for war crimes that they will not be safe anywhere in Bosnia, that there is a very serious possibility of them being detained, and actually, probably, shown a lot of the indictees that the best way out of this is to surrender themselves voluntarily to the Hague and stand trial. If they believe they're innocent, they will have very good defense lawyers, and they can make their case in a court of law and prove their innocence. It's up to a court of law to decided if they're innocent or guilty, and not up to the media or to the authorities or anybody else.

(Colin Soloway - US News) Q: Did these approaches from the Croats in turning themselves in, did these begin after the Prijedor operation or were there some sorts of approaches before hand?

Alex Ivanko, IPTF: I think that there were, you say in the media, there were some statements made by the indictees and lawyers representing them before the Prijedor operation.

Q: This is for Johan. What is the OSCE position on presidential elections in the RS?

Johan Verheyden, OSCE: As I said last week, discussions are ongoing, both with the leadership of the RS in Pale and with the leadership in

Banja Luka, and with the international community, and at the moment, we are looking into all the possibilities, all the technical complications, and we're working on it and come up with the definite answer in the near future.

Simon Haselock, OHR: Let us be quite clear about the position in terms of the constitutionality of it. The only election that has yet, if you like, to be constitutionality called, is the National Assembly elections. The procedure for any additional elections that may take place will have to be done through the constitutional process. Essentially, until the National Assembly elections have taken place, they can't necessarily be called through that process. It is up, largely, to the President of the Republika Srpska to decide whether presidential elections should take place or not. She would have to call them.

(Chris Stephen - AFP) Q: Does that mean you couldn't start organizing such elections until Parliament meets, because that makes it very tight to try and do it by December 7th, or even this year I suppose?

Johan Verheyden, OSCE: No. Organizing is one part. We make our plans as we go along. We have, for instance, for the Parliamentary elections, we have started preliminary planning when the first request from Madame Plavsic's office came on August 7th, we started drafting concept papers, looking into budget matters; that is something we can do, and that is something we are doing at the moment. It's the political mandate that we will have to get to give us the green light for these elections to go ahead.

(Chris Stephen - AFP) Q: Do you have that planning for the BiH Presidential and the RS Presidential elections? Is that concept stuff going on at the moment?

Johan Verheyden, OSCE: For the BiH Presidency elections, and for the Parliamentary election, and for the RS Presidency elections, plans are being drafted as we speak. People are meeting on these issues. How far we realize these plans, that will depend greatly on the political will.

Simon Haselock, OHR: Contingency planning in different from the contingencies actually being realized.

Thank you.

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