Press Release - 14 February 1996
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CC/PIO/033-E
The Hague, 14 February 1996

PRESS STATEMENT BY JUSTICE R. J. GOLDSTONE, PROSECUTOR OF THE ICTY

In view of the understandable media enquiries about the exact status of the two persons brought to the UN detention unit on Monday 12 February, the Prosecutor wishes to reaffirm the position.

General Djukic and Colonel Krsmanovic have, under international law, been transferred to the International Tribunal from Bosnia and Herzegovina, where along with others they were being detained by the Bosnian authorities on suspicion of having committed war crimes. Upon learning of their detention the Prosecutor requested their provisional arrest as suspects and sent investigators to Sarajevo. The transfer of the two men to The Hague and their detention there was ordered by a judge of the International Tribunal after the two men had been formally summoned by the Prosecutor for questioning under the Tribunal's rules. The Prosecutor also secured the assistance of Bosnia and Herzegovina and IFOR in arranging their transfer to the Tribunal's own detention facility, where appropriate conditions are available for such questioning to take place.

The men are themselves under suspicion for having committed serious violations of international humanitarian law during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. In addition, because of their positions as senior military officers, the men may be able, as witnesses, to provide investigators with important information relevant to other enquiries being conducted by the Prosecutor's office. However, speculation as to how, if at all, these persons may be able to assist the Prosecutor's investigations is premature.

The rules of the Tribunal do not provide any specific limits to the length of time persons may be held in custody in these circumstances, but the Prosecutor regards such detention as temporary and anticipates that it will last, at the most, only for a number of weeks. Prolonged pre-trial detention is only possible after a person has been indicted. Further enquiries are therefore being undertaken as a matter of urgency, and the questioning has now begun.

Both men will be accorded the full rights to which they are entitled under the Tribunal's rules on the treatment of suspects during investigation. They will be assisted by counsel of their own choice and by an interpreter if they so wish, and have already been informed of their right to remain silent. Any questioning will take place in the presence of their counsel, and will be tape-recorded or video-recorded. It is a fundamental principle that all persons who have not been proved guilty are entitled to the presumption of innocence, and no person can be required to confess his guilt.

The Prosecutor is at pains to point out that his policy is to investigate and prosecute persons who may be responsible for war crimes irrespective of the political or ethnic group to which they belong. His investigations are evidence-driven and he welcomes information from all informed sources about all crimes and all persons who may be responsible. For this reason he is eager to open a liaison office in Belgrade, and is concerned that, while the authorities in Belgrade have agreed in principle to such an office, the necessary permission has not yet been forthcoming to allow his staff to take up their posts. As stated previously, the investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Bosnian Moslem forces is reaching finality, and the prosecutor anticipates that indictments arising from this investigation will be submitted to a judge for confirmation in the coming weeks.

The Prosecutor welcomes the statement by the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina that persons, other than those indicted, may be arrested and detained for serious violations of international humanitarian law only after a decision, consistent with international legal standards, by the International Tribunal. The Prosecutor accepts that additional responsibility, and would welcome any similar proposal from other authorities in the Former Yugoslavia.

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