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Carla Del Ponte's War On War Crimes

Aired April 27, 2001 - 17:00:00   ET


JONATHAN MANN, INSIGHT (voice-over): Prosecuting the ex-president. The International War Crimes Tribunal prepares for Slobodan Milosevic, a prisoner Belgrade said it had no plans to surrender.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So you're saying that you have an agreement or an understanding with them?

CARLA DEL PONTE, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, INTL WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL: No, I have understanding. No agreement, but understanding.

AMANPOUR: That he will be transferred to The Hague?

DEL PONTE: Yes. Yes.


MANN: Chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

(on camera): Hello, and welcome.

Slobodan Milosevic is under arrest in Yugoslavia. But after a series of wars that took thousands of lives and displaced thousands of people, he's facing trial for allegedly stealing money from the state. Milosevic is also wanted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal. But the reformers now in power in Belgrade are suspicious of The Hague and publicly unwilling to transfer their prisoner for trial there.

Carla del Ponte may know different. The chief prosecutor of the UN War Crimes Tribunal spoke to our Christiane Amanpour at length about her plans.

On our program today - a full edition interview. Del Ponte for the prosecution. Christiane Amanpour begins with a profile.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): In September 1999, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Carla del Ponte as chief prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Before that, she had been attorney general of Switzerland, which she had tried to keep from becoming what she called a piggybank for murky money deals around the world.

Her aggressive digging earned her death threats, which now means she is always surrounded by heavy security. In Switzerland, she caused an uproar when she opened an investigation into financial corruption by the former Russian president Boris Yeltsin and his family as well as other top officials from the Americas to the Middle East.

In the 1980s, she took on the Italian mafia. She narrowly escaped a roadside bomb blast in Sicily. And later, while on a drug investigation in Colombia, her helicopter came under fire.

This prosecutorial zeal followed her to The Hague, where her supporters call her a bulldog in the very best sense of the world. Earlier this year, three Bosnian Serb soldiers and paramilitaries were convicted of mass rape and of sexually enslaving women. For the first time, rape as a weapon of war and sexual enslavement have been defined as crimes against humanity.

Now she's determined to try and convict the former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, and she's about to bring more indictments against him for genocide, the most serious crime under international law. Milosevic may be jailed in Belgrade now, but she's campaigning relentlessly for Yugoslavia to hand him over to her court in The Hague.

She is also demanding the United States and NATO get serious about arresting the most wanted war-time leaders still at large - Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. She says the time is now ripe, and she's going to Washington to lobby the new U.S. administration.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, The Hague.


MANN: Here now, Christiane Amanpour's interview with Carla del Ponte.


AMANPOUR: Ms. del Ponte, thank you for joining us. You are about to go to the United States to talk to members of the new administration. What are you going to tell them? What are you going to ask them for?

DEL PONTE: First of all, I am going to meet the new administration, the new authority of the United States because they are - the United States does great supporting our work and our needs for our investigation. And so it is important to have a personal contact.

AMANPOUR: What are you going to tell them when you get there about the two big fish who've been indicted who are still at large - Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic? Are you going to ask them, please, now do something - arrest them?

DEL PONTE: Oh, I will sure ask that, but I will ask more. I will ask how you think to do it and to achieve it.

AMANPOUR: Why do you think the United States is not pursuing the arrest of Radovan Karadzic?

DEL PONTE: It's a good question, but you must put this question not to me, but to the supreme commander of SFOR, NATO. It's an American one, General Ralston. Ask him why. Now he tells me that he's actively looking for Karadzic and they don't find.

AMANPOUR: And you don't believe that?

DEL PONTE: No. And I told him.

AMANPOUR: What did he say when you said that?

DEL PONTE: He was not pleased about it.

AMANPOUR: Do you think they know where they are?


AMANPOUR: Why do you think they don't arrest them?

DEL PONTE: I think it can change now with the new government.

AMANPOUR: So you're hoping that the new U.S. administration is tougher on this issue?

DEL PONTE: Yes. I don't know if it's tougher or not, but after five years that Karadzic is fugitive, many changes arrived, and so it is now also politically easier to arrest Karadzic than before.

AMANPOUR: Do you think you would also tell them that many people thought the arrest of Milosevic would result in mass demonstrations and shootings and civil unrest.

DEL PONTE: Yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: .and none of it happened.

DEL PONTE: Yes, that's good. That's a good experience for (inaudible), and Karadzic absolutely is nobody more - politicals nobody more.

AMANPOUR: So will you tell political Washington - General Powell, all the other officials.

DEL PONTE: Yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: .that they shouldn't be afraid anymore.

DEL PONTE: I will ask how after one year what happened and why Karadzic and the other are not arrested and what they will do to obtain.

AMANPOUR: What answer do you think you'll get?

DEL PONTE: I don't know. Come next, I will tell you.

AMANPOUR: One of the most frustrating things for the tribunal has been that it has no power of arrest. It has no police force. It has no military. Why don't you demand a SWAT team or some kind of military force that can do it?

DEL PONTE: We can have a tracking team to locate the fugitives, but we cannot operate arrests ourselves. What I'm asking now NATO SFOR is to put in place a tracking team myself, from our office, a tracking team that must work together with SFOR because on the field.

I'm expecting an answer from the secretary-general of NATO about that.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that they will say yes to that?

DEL PONTE: I hope so.

AMANPOUR: So that tracking team would tell SFOR we've located Karadzic, now you go and get him?

DEL PONTE: Yes. And so it will be much more difficult not to operate the arrest of Karadzic if we locate him.

AMANPOUR: The biggest fish, Slobodan Milosevic, is now behind bars. But he's not behind your bars. Do you expect to get him here to The Hague?

DEL PONTE: Absolutely. Yes. Milosevic, the same as all the other, he must be transferred to The Hague so that we can get a trial.

AMANPOUR: Right. You say that, and you've been saying that for years, and previous prosecutors have been saying that. But the Yugoslav authorities have been saying, no, we won't send him.

DEL PONTE: I listen different answer because, yes, some authority said no. But others said yes. And the time when I think it's a most problem of the time. Because now they are speaking for a national trial in Belgrade before transfer to The Hague and so on and so on. So I will go back to Belgrade next month to discuss again because I think it's not to discuss if Milosevic will be transferred because that is an obligation and an international obligation also for Yugoslav. Because Yugoslav is also a member state of the UN.

And so the obligation is there. But I will ask when I can expect to have Milosevic.

AMANPOUR: When do you expect to issue new indictments against him?

DEL PONTE: I have two indictments - one about Croatia, one about Bosnia crimes committed, crimes responsibility for Milosevic. And one I hope next month and the other one after two or three months. It is very complicated case. It's not an easy task for investigators and for our lawyers and attorneys to put together such indictment, but we will achieve it, in any case, before Milosevic will be transferred to The Hague.

AMANPOUR: Could he face charges of genocide?

DEL PONTE: Yes. Yes.

AMANPOUR: You plan to indict him on charges of genocide?

DEL PONTE: Yes. Yes. But if I will keep the count of genocide in the indictment, I will be sure that I have enough evidence because I will not take a risk that he will be acquitted.

AMANPOUR: But you think.

DEL PONTE: That's as prosecutor. Yes, until now, I think I am enough. I get enough evidence to obtain the sentence of Milosevic.

AMANPOUR: So even though it's difficult to bring a case against him and to bring him to trial, you're nonetheless confident that you have the evidence to convict him?

DEL PONTE: Yes. Yes.

AMANPOUR: What evidence is that?

DEL PONTE: Documents and especially witnesses, statement of witnesses.

AMANPOUR: His associates?

DEL PONTE: Not direct associate because we didn't have access to the interview of such person. But people who was working with him or around him, yes, also.

AMANPOUR: People working with him or around him?


AMANPOUR: And documents?

DEL PONTE: Documents.

AMANPOUR: In which he gave orders?

DEL PONTE: Not directly, but it was document who refer about meeting. So notice, so you know, when you have a meeting and you take notices after the meeting.

AMANPOUR: The minutes of the meeting.

DEL PONTE: Yes. Not really minutes, but the resume of.

AMANPOUR: The summary of the meeting.

DEL PONTE: Summary of the meeting, yes. And other documents. But we expect also a great cooperation from Belgrade now.

AMANPOUR: Are you getting that?

DEL PONTE: Yes, we are starting to get cooperation also in this direction to have access to archives.

AMANPOUR: Archives.


AMANPOUR: Will you get that access?


AMANPOUR: So that's good? You're pleased with the cooperation?

DEL PONTE: Yes, I'm pleased with the cooperation, witness interview. I have investigator who are there in our office, and they can work properly. Access to documents. What is not good is the arrest of the fugitives who is among, who is not good cooperation yet. Arrest of fugitive and transfer of fugitive.

AMANPOUR: They're not cooperating with that?

DEL PONTE: No. No. Not enough. Not good enough.

AMANPOUR: When you say in terms of evidence that you're gathering, witness statements, has Rade Markovic, the police chief who was arrested, has he been talking?

DEL PONTE: I was just yesterday somebody from the embassy told me that he's cooperating with the Belgrade authority, and so I will present a request to interview him. Because obviously, it can be in the interest of our investigation to interview.

AMANPOUR: Do you have any understand from the Yugoslav authorities that Milosevic will be transferred to you, to your jurisdiction?

DEL PONTE: I spoke with both justice minister when they came here (inaudible), the justice minister from the federation and justice minister from Serbia. We spoke about that, and I must say it was not contested that Milosevic must be tried. As I said, the problem is when. That is the big problem.

AMANPOUR: So you're saying that you have an agreement or an understanding with them?

DEL PONTE: No, I have understanding. No agreement, but understanding.

AMANPOUR: That he will be transferred to The Hague?

DEL PONTE: Yes. Yes.


MANN: We take a break now, and then del Ponte talks about a war crimes case that was being prepared against another former president. Stay with us.



AMANPOUR: Certainly this tribunal has indicted many more Bosnian Serbs and Serbs than they have Croats or Muslims, and certainly a good number of people believe this tribunal to be a political court - one that is biased against Serbs.

DEL PONTE: Not you, I hope.

AMANPOUR: Is there any truth to that?

DEL PONTE: You see, we make a program now that we finish our investigation 2004. And I think really before giving - giving, how do you say.

AMANPOUR: A judgment?

DEL PONTE: Yes. Giving a judgment - too many Serbs, not Bosnians or Muslims or Croats, let's wait until we've finished our work. Because I think under our program, 2004 we will have proceeded against all the high despots and perpetrators from what's happened in Yugoslavia and crimes committed.

So I don't accept now, so in the middle way of our work, that the public opinion will judge and see. Let's end our work.

AMANPOUR: Were you preparing an indictment against the now- deceased Croatian president Franjo Tudjman?

DEL PONTE: Franjo Tudjman is died. So let him repose in pacem (ph), as you say in English.

AMANPOUR: But had he not reposed in peace, would you have indicted him?

DEL PONTE: Yes, we had investigation against him, and I must say it was near to be indicted, but.

AMANPOUR: You would have indicted him?


AMANPOUR: On what charge?

DEL PONTE: Crimes against humanity and war crimes.

AMANPOUR: From what incident?

DEL PONTE: Oh, from what occurred in the Bosnian.

AMANPOUR: In 1995, Operation Storm?

DEL PONTE: Yes, and before even.

AMANPOUR: And before?


AMANPOUR: What? What before?

DEL PONTE: Oh, I don't remember anymore exactly the details of that. But it was also before 1995, Storm, yes.

AMANPOUR: Alija Izetbegovic, the president of Bosnia - is he being investigated?

DEL PONTE: Izetbegovic is still alive, and I wish him a long life. But I will not answer your question because, as you know, investigation we are conducting before we are coming out with indictment, we are not saying nothing.

AMANPOUR: But you have talked about possibly investigating and indicting members of the Kosovo Liberation Army?


AMANPOUR: And where is that?

DEL PONTE: It's ongoing, and as you know, we extend our investigation about crimes committed after the armed conflict proper called. And so we are working very hard on that, but it's not easy to collect enough evidence. But let's see.

AMANPOUR: Do you expect members of the KLA to be indicted?

DEL PONTE: Yes. But don't ask me the name.

AMANPOUR: When do you expect these indictments to come out?

DEL PONTE: I don't know. I spoke with the team investigators a few weeks ago, and they told me that they need months.


DEL PONTE: That's two, three, four months. But let's see because, you know, in any investigation, you cannot program really how long it will take because it doesn't depend directly and only from the investigator if you came from that investigation. Let's say that they're working diligently.

AMANPOUR: There was a great fuss created when your office suggested months ago that they would investigate NATO for its role in the Kosovo war and possibly bring charges. How did you react to the outrage that was leveled at you then?

DEL PONTE: You know, I'm prosecutor since more than 20 years, and so the emotional side is no more existing. I'm trying that is no more existing, especially such kind of emotion. And so, you see, we are working very (inaudible) with what we have.

Do we have enough evidences? Do we have initial, concrete element that crimes are committed intentionally? Are there element enough?

AMANPOUR: And then you decided that you didn't have grounds to proceed?


AMANPOUR: Was it because of pressure from NATO countries that you dropped it?

DEL PONTE: Oh, no. Oh, no. No, there was no pressure, not from NATO country, nor from nobody because I think - I have known that I don't like pressure, and I don't tolerate pressure. And so I think they know that it's better not to approach me for that.

AMANPOUR: Amnesty International says that NATO's bombing of the television station was a war crime. Do you agree with that?

DEL PONTE: No. We didn't agree with that, and we examined the elements from the human rights report and even from other reports and from other document. But I must say we work with what we have. Maybe we have not complete information that we would like to have.

AMANPOUR: You said that you.

DEL PONTE: But what we have it's not possible to consider it a war crime.

AMANPOUR: And you have said that you've received information subsequently that NATO warned Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav authorities, that that television station was going to be bombed?

DEL PONTE: Yes. Yes. And we are working on that, and that will be also a meeting that I will have in Washington.

AMANPOUR: On the issue of Milosevic and his trial that's going on in Belgrade, the Belgrade authorities want to try Milosevic for all sorts of charges relating to corruption, abuse of power. You were formerly attorney general of Switzerland. You presumably have a lot of knowledge of where the skeletons are buried in terms of financial misdemeanors and crimes.

Can you help Belgrade with their trial, with their local trial?

DEL PONTE: As you know, we receive from the Dutch home - the trial chamber (ph) - the authorization to search and block bank accounts and assets of Milosevic and others accused. And we have done that, and we work on that since one year, even more.

The prosecutor office sent here two persons, two investigators from this investigation against Milosevic in Belgrade, and they are staying here three days. They're just leaving yesterday. And so we worked together in this financial investigation. So we help Belgrade, but Belgrade help us to complete our search.

AMANPOUR: From what you know about the case that the Belgrade authorities are bringing against Milosevic, do you think they have enough to convict him?

DEL PONTE: It's difficult for me because I don't know all the dossier, you know? I know just a part of that. But it's not easy, I must say. It's not easy. But we help in the financial part of that, and I'm confident that we will achieve evidence enough for Belgrade.

AMANPOUR: What has been your greatest satisfaction since you've been prosecutor here?

DEL PONTE: To achieve what it must be - it must be considered impossible when you stay in your own nation and you open your national inquiry. That is that international justice, and that you apply an international law. But the most important signification, as I said, is that the powerful - the leader, it's an impunity of the leader committing crimes all around the world. That is what we are doing, and I hope it is a good prevention for other leaders.

AMANPOUR: So the impunities is gone?

DEL PONTE: Is gone.


DEL PONTE: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much for joining us.

DEL PONTE: Thank you.


MANN: One last word about the man who, along with Slobodan Milosevic, is at the top of Carla del Ponte's most wanted list - Radovan Karadzic. He recently told a Bosnian newspaper that he would never fall into the hands of the war crimes tribunal alive. He also said that he's writing an autobiography from his hideout entitled, "Radovan and Serbia." Karadzic boasted the book would win a Nobel Prize.

That's INSIGHT for this day. I'm Jonathan Mann. The news continues.




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