May 8, 2001
Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte talks about efforts to extradite Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague on war crimes charges.
GWEN IFILL: Early on the morning of April 1, Serb police surrounded Slobodan Milosevic's house in Belgrade. Deadlines for his surrender had come and gone. At 4:30 a.m. shots were fired, and a few minutes later, the former strongman and president of Yugoslavia was on his way to prison.
Milosevic's arrest came almost two yes after the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Netherlands indicted him. But his arrest did not come as a result of that indictment. Instead, Yugoslavia's new president, Vojislav Kostunica, insisted that Milosevic be tried at home, not in The Hague, and on charges of domestic corruption.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was established by the U.N. Security Council in 1993. Its mission: to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, dating to 1991. Since 1993, the tribunal has indicted almost 100 people for war crimes, but of those, 27 are still at large, including the notorious Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, both Bosnian Serbs accused of genocide in the Bosnian war.
The chief prosecutor for the tribunal, Carla del Ponte, is in Washington this week, hoping to gain U.S. support for her campaign to extradite Milosevic to The Hague. Today she met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and senators on Capitol Hill.
GWEN IFILL: And Chief Prosecutor del Ponte joins us now. Welcome.
CARLA DEL PONTE: Good evening.
GWEN IFILL: How were your meetings today?
CARLA DEL PONTE: It was I think an important meeting because I'm coming again to Washington to put a request for the victims of crimes committed in, from Yugoslavia, and so I'm asking to allow the tribunal to complete its work, and so we need to have full support, full cooperation from Yugoslavia.
GWEN IFILL: What does that mean, full support and full cooperation, not only from Yugoslavia but also vis-à-vis the United States?
CARLA DEL PONTE: That means the international community and particularly the United States must obliged Yugoslavia and the other states to cooperate with us, because, as you know, I am prosecutor without judicial and so I need to complete our investigation with the help of all other states.
GWEN IFILL: Are you hoping that the United States will withhold money, aid, to Yugoslavia until it extradites Milosevic?
CARLA DEL PONTE: I think that the United States can do a lot for us, not only with resources but with pressure to Yugoslavia for the transfer of Milosevic.
GWEN IFILL: What kind of response did you get from Colin Powell today and from senators on the Hill?
CARLA DEL PONTE: I must say that all are promising us full cooperation, full support, and though I think that I can expect some results as soon as possible.
GWEN IFILL: Does that mean that they committed to you today that they will set a new deadline for when Milosevic should be extradited?
CARLA DEL PONTE: No, it was not set -- a deadline. But I was asking, especially secretary of state, to ask tomorrow President Kostunica, when he's visiting, is coming to Washington, to ask him to tell us the date that Milosevic can be transferred.
GWEN IFILL: And he said he would do that tomorrow?
CARLA DEL PONTE: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: Why should Milosevic be tried in The Hague?
|Treated the same as others|
CARLA DEL PONTE: Milosevic is one of the most responsible for the crimes committed, and it was -- it is under indictment. We are waiting for trial against Milosevic in The Hague, and so I think that Milosevic must be treated the same as the others, and so we are expecting that he's transferred to The Hague to stand trial.
GWEN IFILL: President Kostunica has said often that he thinks that Milosevic should be tried at home and that, in fact, there is some bias involved in the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. What's your response to that?
CARLA DEL PONTE: It is impossible that Milosevic can be tried in Belgrade for our indictment, for our crimes, for our charges, because, as you know, ICTY, our tribunal has primacy -- about that I must say it's just a word because President Kostunica must be more explicitly and not generally speaking against the tribunal.
GWEN IFILL: You came to this position from, among other things, as attorney general of Switzerland. Do you understand their argument -- or do you give any merit to their argument about the sovereignty of them being able to try Milosevic themselves?
CARLA DEL PONTE: I'm not contesting that maybe at once the Belgrade authority can put Milosevic in trial for crimes committed in Belgrade and Serbia, but we have no jurisdiction. But, as I know, they're not prepared now; they didn't issue an indictment against Milosevic, and so I think we are for Kosovo indictment or it will be time that he's now transferred to the Hague.
GWEN IFILL: There seem to be some lingering concerns as well that your tribunal did not pursue war crimes complaints against NATO for the 1999 bombings. What's your response to that?
CARLA DEL PONTE: I'm a prosecutor working with the elements I have and it is not elements against NATO, so it's absolutely not a question anymore.
GWEN IFILL: Do you think that there is any sentiment that exists in the United States or in European countries, anyplace else you've been traveling in your campaign, for tying international aid to any decision to send Milosevic to The Hague?
CARLA DEL PONTE: I think really not, I think really not, but I think it could be possible, because it is -- it is now for our tribunal a very important moment that the international community obtain the transfer of Milosevic, and so I'm expecting from the international community and especially from the United States a great support.
GWEN IFILL: Does that mean there's no room for compromise, say prosecutors from The Hague agreeing to join the prosecution of Milosevic in Belgrade?
CARLA DEL PONTE: No, absolutely not. It's not compromise possible, no. Milosevic the same treatment as all the others.
GWEN IFILL: So that's off the table?
CARLA DEL PONTE: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: There has been discussion that there may be other indictments imminent regarding Milosevic.
CARLA DEL PONTE: Yes, we are working since -- months for two other indictments and against Milosevic crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia, and that is not important that I know when Milosevic will be transferred because I need to issue these other two indictments, and I think it will be possible to do that in a couple of months.
GWEN IFILL: You also have other people who you were seeking to bring indictments -- or you have brought indictments against. Where does that stand -- other indictments?
CARLA DEL PONTE: Yes, we have other indictments already; there are other indictments issued, and I can tell you that our fugitive actually 38 and as prosecutor I must say I have too many fugitives.
GWEN IFILL: You mean, indictments that have been brought against individuals who for some reason cannot be found?
CARLA DEL PONTE: I think that most of these people -- these fugitives -- we know where they are, almost, but it is important that the authority or even SFOR -- NATO -- are looking for because you cannot expect to find them very easily because if they know that they are under arrest warrant. But I would suggest that especially SFOR must be much more proactive in the location of fugitives.
GWEN IFILL: Ms. Del Ponte, thank you very much for joining us.
CARLA DEL PONTE: Thank you.