April 29, 1999
JIM LEHRER: Prosecuting war crimes in the Former Yugoslavia. We start with the latest allegations of atrocities in Kosovo. Bill Neely of Independent Television News reports from a refugee camp in Albania.
BILL NEELY: They came in their thousands, and with them, more horror. From Djakovica in Southern Kosovo, more accounts of killing and rape.
GIRL: Many peoples are killed, women.
BILL NEELY: By the Serb police?
GIRL: Yes, by the Serb police.
BILL NEELY: Mosa Bitzoria says the police took away many of the town's young girls to their camps. This teenager spoke in detail of killings he'd seen. What did you see?
YOUNG BOY: I see killed children, killed man. A man with his family, and they take them from their family and executed.
BILL NEELY: Executed the men?
YOUNG BOY: Yes.
BILL NEELY: How many dead men did you see?
YOUNG BOY: I see ten men.
BILL NEELY: Their paramilitaries ordered Becaria Camberries' husband to let go of his six-year-old son. "The men said to him, 'we're going to kill you.' And they took my husband. I heard gunfire, and was forced to run." So many could not tell their stories, but three people told me of a group of men taken at gun point by Serb police into a house, which was then set on fire. This man helped bury six or seven men-- he couldn't tell. We cannot confirm the truth of these stories, but UN representatives say they are all remarkably consistent. They believe up to 200 people have been killed in Djakovica.
RAY WILKINSON, UNHCR: It's now totally out of control. It seems that the people inside probably feel they have nothing to lose now. And I'm not sure that it's an orchestrated campaign, necessarily, from Belgrade as much as a local level.
BILL NEELY: This woman says she was raped by one Serb policeman as others dragged away two more women and a 15-year-old girl. They have lost their dignity, their land, and their innocence. So many of the young have seen too much. Berrat Taffer says he watched 17 men taken from the tractor in front of his and shot in a field. Donicka Socoly watched her father being led away by police, then heard shooting and saw Djakovica burn.
YOUNG GIRL: All houses was burning. My city, all the schools, nothing -- you cannot see nothing, only the house burning.
BILL NEELY: And then the survivors left, leaving Djakovica and their country behind, and leaving the world to digest more horror from a hidden land.
JIM LEHRER: And to Phil Ponce.
PHIL PONCE: Joining me is Louise Arbour, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. She's on leave from her position as Justice of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Canada. The international Tribunal on Human Rights Violations was established by the United Nations in 1993. Justice Arbour, as -- in your role as prosecutor, your job is to help gather evidence and evaluate evidence which includes testimony from witnesses. We just heard testimony. We just heard refugees talking about rapes, mass executions. Do you believe them?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Well, these are very credible accounts, I think; they're not the first accounts. I think somebody there made the comment that we hear great similarities and stories coming from different parts of the region that seem to corroborate each other. But of course we will need to verify. We have investigators on the ground now both in Macedonia and in Albania trying to take first-hand accounts from people who will then be willing to testify, which of course is another matter altogether.
PHIL PONCE: So these people we just saw on the tape, conceivably your investigators might speak to them. And if they're willing to come forward at some point, then they could be involved in giving testimony, which would be part of your investigation?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Yes, very much so. Now, of course, these eyewitness accounts from victims or simple witnesses of killings or rapes and so on help us document, in fact, the first part of the case which is the commission of the crime. The considerably more difficult part of the case for us to build is evidence against not only the actual perpetrators, but those up the chain of command who have to account before an international forum. The expectation is that we will move these cases up the chain of command to the highest leadership level, political leadership and military leadership. And that of course is not easily documented solely from eyewitness accounts or evidence from the refugees.
PHIL PONCE: And when you say you're going to follow the chain of evidence to the highest levels of political leadership, does that include President Slobodan Milosevic?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Well, it includes under you statute, there is no immunity for heads of states or anyone. So it theoretically includes the highest political or military level. The question is, what will the evidence sustain in terms of whether or not the leadership ordered these activities, orchestrated these activities? We are looking not at individual atrocities. Our mandate is to prosecute, for instance, crimes against humanity, which have to be widespread or systemic killings, extermination, rape, torture, enslavement, deportation. It has to be on a widespread or a systemic scale, and then of course we have to examine what is the command responsibility for these crimes.
PHIL PONCE: So the kinds of stories that we just heard and that people have been hearing now for some time, those are the kinds of things you're interested in? If it's part of a large-scale systemic kind of a campaign, is that what you're saying?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Absolutely, yes.
PHIL PONCE: Have you filed any charges yet relating to what's happened in Kosovo so far?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Well, I don't want to show a hand to the extent that we have in the past proceeded, as you know, we investigate offenses committed in Bosnia as well as in Croatia, and we have used the technique of bringing charges under sealed indictments to facilitate arrests, which has been a huge problem for us.
PHIL PONCE: A sealed indictment, does that mean a secret indictment or an unannounced indictment?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Yes. It essentially means that we go -- for us to get an indictment, we have to go to a judge and present evidence upon which the indictment is confirmed. Then we get an arrest warrant issued. We had a lot of problems in Bosnia with public indictments. The accused knew that they were wanted. Their own governments were unwilling to arrest them. So what we did is we started bringing charges without making public the existence of the arrest warrant, and S-4, NATO troops in Bosnia were then very successful, not in every case, but in several cases in arresting the accused. And then of course the minute they're arrested, they have all their rights to counsel. We give them the full detail. These charges are very detailed, all the supporting evidence that goes with it. So this may be a technique that we would use in Kosovo. It's geared to a strategy to facilitate arrest.
PHIL PONCE: So, in other words, you're saying it's possible that you already have these sealed indictments stemming from activities in Kosovo, you just don't care to announce them at this point?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Yes. But I think, in honesty, I mean, the flow of information is coming out from Kosovo so rapidly and so massively that these investigations take time, particularly for us to be able to then document the command responsibility for activities that appear to be perpetrated according to refugee accounts in a mixed environment from police units and army units. So it's very critical for us to identify properly the perpetrators. They're all kinds of allegations of involvements of paramilitary groups. So, we have to identify who the perpetrators are and then who their immediate commanders are and who ultimately higher up the chain of command can be seen to be personally criminally responsible for that. That's going to take some time.
PHIL PONCE: How do you do that? What kind of evidence do you gather? What kind of evidence do you rely on?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Well, we need access, not only to accounts from refugees; as I said, this is going to give us a time base or evidence of the commission of the crimes. But to get -- we need a lot of understanding of the command structure. And that of course we can gather -- some of it is open source information. Other information we are now turning much more actively than ever before to state support, that is to the cooperation of governments.
PHIL PONCE: And that's why you're here now? That's why you're in the United States. What is it that you want from the United States that could help you create a case against people who might have been responsible for these reports?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Well, what we are looking at essentially is information that is collected -- essentially is in the intelligence community that could be made available to us to assist in understanding, for instance, the command structure of the VJ, the Yugoslav army on the ground, and the various police units so that we can bring our cases to the appropriate level of leadership. So we're looking at all kinds of methods of collection of evidence. Some has been revealed publicly, and I think the public understands the significance of it, imagery for instance. If we're looking at activities that are widespread and systemic destruction of hundreds of villages, not only can the refugees tell us something about that, but we can then corroborate their stories by -
PHIL PONCE: By imagery, you mean satellite imagery?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Yes. It could be just airplane, depends very much on for what purpose the images were taken. But more and more, I think, various providers or collectors of this kind of information have been prepared to declassify some of these images, some have been made public, I think, to demonstrate the extent of these kinds of activities. So we're looking at gaining access to these kinds of byproducts of intelligence efforts that are often gathered for military purposes.
PHIL PONCE: So one of the reasons you're in the United States and you're here to meet with the Secretary of Defense, with Madeleine Albright, with Sandy Berger, the National Security Advisor, you want them to share intelligence that would help you build a case?
LOUISE ARBOUR: That's right.
PHIL PONCE: In part, in part.
LOUISE ARBOUR: That's right. Now, I have to say, I mean, many of the information that we want access to is governed by domestic legislation. We're not talking here about doing anything illegal. We're very conscious that some of this information is very heavily regulated. So we are embarking in a dialogue in the United States and elsewhere to see the extent to which governments can either declassify certain information to make it available to us, or provide us the product of their analysis of some of the information where they cannot necessarily release the raw information that they have in their possession.
PHIL PONCE: Very quickly, are you confident that you can catch the people who you accuse, who you indict?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Well, that's another issue that I want to press, certainly here very strongly. I believe that the greatest deterrent message that could be sent to Kosovo right now to deter those who are on the ground committing these offenses would be the immediate arrest of the remaining indictees in Bosnia including Karadzic and others, some indicted under seal.
PHIL PONCE: From years ago?
LOUISE ARBOUR: Well, yes. Some going back to 1995. If these people were apprehended today, it would send a very sobering signal, I think, to the ones who are committing the kinds of crimes that were described by the people we've just seen.
PHIL PONCE: Justice Arbour, I thank you very much for being with us.
LOUISE ARBOUR: Thank you.