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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at a Dinner Hosted by the American Bar Association - Central and East European Law Initiative, in Honor of Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
Supreme Court, Great Hall, Washington, DC, April 5, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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(As Prepared for Delivery)

Judge McDonald, Justice Goldstone, Justices O'Connor and Ginsburg, distinguished guests, it is a great honor to have been asked to give this tribute. It is also a bit intimidating for someone who is not a lawyer and has never argued before traffic court, let alone members of the Supreme Court.

But a good cause is a mother to courage, and we have good cause to speak warmly tonight about Gabrielle Kirk McDonald and about our shared concern for the rule of law.

In recent times, that subject has been much on our minds. In China, respect for law and some individual rights is advancing-- but does not yet extend to the political arena.

In Central Europe, we have seen dramatic progress, helped along by the thousands of CEELI volunteers sent to provide technical advice and support for legal and judicial reforms.

And today, with the surrender of two Libyan suspects to Dutch authorities, we have taken an important step toward accountability for those who died on Pan Am 103.

But tonight our focus is on Judge McDonald's legacy, and our thoughts and prayers are on a small part of the world where there is no rule of law today. And that is Kosovo.

Belgrade's campaign of terror against the Kosovo Albanians is ruthless, lawless and gutless. It is an assault on the very concept of official responsibility to legal norms.

NATO is acting within the law to uphold the law. We resorted to force only after every diplomatic option was explored, multiple warnings issued, and a balanced peace plan rejected by Belgrade.

Our purposes have not changed. We seek the withdrawal of Milosevic's military, police and paramilitary forces; the return of all refugees; the deployment of an international security force; and the creation of a democratic political framework for Kosovo on the basis of the Rambouillet Accords.

We also seek to hold accountable those responsible for atrocities during this conflict. There can be no question that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed in Kosovo. Nor can there be doubt that the orders to carry out these acts are coming from the top.

The United States will do everything we can to support the Tribunal's effort to gather evidence and bring indictments.

We are already providing financial support for the Tribunal's investigations of atrocities in Kosovo. And we will share with the Tribunal information we ourselves gather. We are using American personnel to help interview refugees about their horrific experiences. We intend to commit more personnel and resources to this effort -- and I know that the Tribunal will welcome support from other governments and NGOs as well.

Six years ago, the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was met with great skepticism. We heard predictions that such a tribunal would be irrelevant, or even harmful, to the cause of ending the fighting and establishing a lasting peace.

Today, the question most often asked is when the Court can begin to prepare indictments for crimes in Kosovo.

This has happened because the Tribunal has proven its worth. It has put an ever-increasing number of those who carried out the butchery in Bosnia behind bars. It has helped to marginalize and make pariahs out of those who have been indicted but not yet tried. And it has provided answers to some of the most painful questions about the Bosnian conflict.

The progress the Tribunal has made was far from inevitable. We owe it to support from governments and from groups such as the CEELI-founded Coalition for International Justice.

We owe it to the courage of the peoples of the Balkans, and their willingness to re-live their personal tragedies in order to advance the cause of justice.

And we owe it to the talented, dedicated Tribunal staff -- and to no one more than Gabrielle Kirk McDonald.

I will tell you a story. Six years ago, when I was in New York, we formed a caucus of all the women permanent representatives to the United Nations. We were not a big group -- we called ourselves the G-8. But we were determined that there be a War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and because so many of the crimes there involved abuses against women, we wanted there to be women judges. So we lobbied the Security Council.

I was so proud that America had a candidate who was one of the pioneer civil rights litigators in our country. And she has since become a pioneer justice for international war crimes law.

Her colleagues recognized her intelligence and courage when they elected her the Tribunal's President in 1995.

Under her leadership, the Tribunal has built a strong body of case law and precedent upon which future prosecutions for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide may be built.

The Tribunal has also used its unprecedented authority to try persons on all sides of the Balkan conflicts, and in so doing taken important steps toward an international system of justice that is more fair and effective.

As head of the Appeals Chamber for the Yugoslav and Rwanda tribunals, Judge McDonald made it her responsibility to see that the two bodies worked smoothly together -- and to reinforce the global nature of the precedents they have set.

And her determination to ensure fair and sensitive hearings of sex crime charges, she helped the Tribunal establish a key international precedent -- that rape is a war crime as evil, and as prosecutable, as any other.

These achievements alone would be enough to guarantee Judge McDonald a place in any Legal Hall of Fame. But she has done more. Under her leadership, the Tribunal has reached out to improve public awareness in Bosnia and Croatia, underscoring the role it can play in promoting reconciliation and healing.

She has reached out to Americans as well, drawing parallels between what happened in Bosnia and what she has seen in her own life as an African-American lawyer and advocate.

She is the best answer America could offer to those who feel unaffected by crimes in the Balkans, because the victims are far away; or to those who insist that our efforts at reconciliation are doomed to fail; or to those who believe that, because we cannot hold accountable all who commit war crimes, we should, therefore, not prosecute any.

Gabrielle's example reminds us that we can understand that there will be limits on what we can accomplish, without ourselves limiting unduly what we attempt. And that, in so doing, we may achieve more than was ever believed possible. We may seek justice. We may serve the cause of peace. And we may do our part in creating a future that is better than the past.

I am deeply grateful that she has agreed to continue to speak out on behalf of the Tribunals. I am confident that she will continue to be a voice for justice wherever she goes. And I am profoundly in her debt; as are we all, as well as the people of the Balkans, and people everywhere who love truth and seek to do right.

Gabrielle, thank you; and God bless you.

[End of Document]

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