Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the "Conflicts and War Crimes: Challenges for Coverage" Seminar for Editors Sponsored by The Crimes of War Project and The Freedom Forum
Arlington, Virginia, May 5, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
(As Prepared for Delivery)
I am very pleased to be with you today. I want to thank Roy Gutman, the President of the Crimes of War Project, and John Owen, the Director of the Freedom Forum, for affording me the opportunity to address a subject -- war crimes -- which has occupied much of my energy since my earliest days as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Let me begin with two stories: The first is drawn from the trial of three defendants indicted for the systematic rape of Bosnian Muslim women in Foca, Bosnia and Herzegovina, now underway at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. One female witness recently testified about the killing of her brother by one of the defendants. On cross-examination, the defense counsel asked her, "How do you know that my client is the person who killed your brother?" The witness answered, "Because he told me he killed my brother while he was raping me."
In this, the first systematic rape trial in the history of international criminal law, many other women are courageously testifying about the hundreds of rapes and other abuses committed against individual women in 1992 in Foca. Roy Gutman earned his Pulitzer Prize reporting on the Foca rapes and other atrocities in 1992. Thanks to him, we learned the truth -- in real time.
The second story is unfolding in another courtroom at the Yugoslav Tribunal, where Bosnian Serb Army General Krstic is being prosecuted for the mass execution of Bosnian Muslim civilians after the fall of Srebrenica in 1995. "Witness P" as he has been called, described recently how he and other Bosnian Muslim men, in stultifying July heat, were rounded up, beaten, and loaded onto trucks by VRS forces.
Witness P testified that over the course of two days, in an operation of considerable logistical complexity involving large numbers of organized VRS forces, they were taken to various holding locations, where they were consistently threatened, insulted, beaten, and shaken down for money. Bursts of gunfire sounded almost continuously. Eventually, Witness P was loaded onto a truck and taken to a field, already littered with the corpses of many dead men. He and others, stripped of their outer garments and with hands tied behind their backs, were ordered to form a new row and to fall to the ground, after which automatic gunfire erupted. VRS forces shot at the backs and heads of the men from a distance of twenty to thirty feet.
Witness P miraculously survived. He observed bodies being mechanically piled onto a tractor, which would drive off and return, empty, 15 minutes later. Witness P estimated that there were 1,500 to 2,000 dead bodies on the field when he escaped. Another survivor of this slaughter testified that, "From all...I saw, I could come to the conclusion that this was extremely well organized. It was systematic killing.... The organizers of that do not deserve to be at liberty. And if I had the right and courage in the name of all those innocents and all those victims, I would forgive the actual perpetrators of the executions, because they were misled."
In early August 1995, I briefed the Security Council on the satellite imagery that helped document what these witnesses of the Srebrenica genocide had undergone. Today, in the Krstic trial, imagery provided by the U.S. Government is being used by the prosecution.
These stories serve as stark reminders of the barbarism of the crimes committed during the Balkans war, and why the need for justice is so indispensable to peace and reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia. The war crimes agenda is more than the pursuit of abstract U.S. goals and interests. It is about real people who are real war criminals or real victims.
Journalists and their editors have an indispensable role to play in exposing atrocities and the criminal conduct that unleashes them. Frankly, media reports of atrocities are in many ways as valuable to us as our other sources. That is why Roy's worthy project, co-sponsored by Freedom Forum, at American University is so important not only to the general public but also to policy-makers in governments and international organizations. It also is why the book he co-edited, Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know, sits on my desk as a guidebook.
We owe so much to the scores of journalists who have given their lives to report the news, which is so often about the crimes of war. For example, the media coverage of the Kosovo conflict last year and the Chechnya conflict of recent months has made us all almost instant witnesses to the fate of civilians and civilian property in the face of armies, paramilitaries, and rebels who are challenging the most fundamental precepts of the laws of war.
Consider this remarkable fact: 61 journalists died covering the Balkan wars. Five dozen dead to bring the world the truth. Last year, 40 journalists died covering conflicts around the world. Their names and those of other martyrs in search of the truth are rightly honored at the Freedom Forum Journalist Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
There is no turning back now from the judicial process evolving in The Hague and in Arusha, home of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The trials in The Hague and in Arusha are carving a niche in world history that I confidently believe will have profound impact on the course of human events for years to come. No matter the crisis of the day, we have to keep our eye on the prize: justice for the perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in our time.
That is why the United States continues its significant support for both Tribunals. It is why the latest capture of an indicted fugitive, Dragan Nikolic, occurred recently in the U.S. sector of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The last apprehension in the U.S. sector was General Krstic in December 1998. Indictees know, or should know, that no indictee can or does carry on long as a free man in the U.S. sector.
Nor will any indictee avoid the long arm of the Yugoslav Tribunal. There is no statute of limitations; our resolve is firm. We will not rest until indicted fugitives Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, Slobodan Milosevic, and their colleagues in terror face the bar of justice in The Hague.
Our rewards program offers up to $5 million to any individual who provides information that leads to the successful arrest or conviction of any indictee of the Yugoslav Tribunal. We strongly support legislation recently introduced by Senator Russell Feingold that would extend the rewards program to the Rwanda Tribunal, as we had originally intended. The arrest record of the Rwanda Tribunal has been extremely impressive, and we want to help in every way we can to bring each indicted architect of the 1994 genocide to trial in Arusha.
I should also note that last year the United States provided the Yugoslav Tribunal with the largest voluntary contribution -- $8.5 million -- in its history to help cover the unanticipated costs of its Kosovo investigations in 1999. We are working with Congress to identify additional voluntary funding this year.
We continue to closely monitor the work of the Rwanda Tribunal. Like the Yugoslav Tribunal, a substantial part of the Rwanda Tribunal's budget is paid through U.S. assessments, for a total of $41.3 million for both tribunals in 1999 and a budgeted $44.8 million for 2000.
We have voluntarily funded the Internews Network's coverage of the Rwanda Tribunal and the preparation of a documentary about its work to be aired in Rwanda. We financially support the presence of Rwandan journalists in Arusha to cover the Tribunal's work. We also are directing voluntary funding towards court management priorities at the Rwanda Tribunal and its tracking of indicted fugitives.
But as you well know, the existing ad hoc international criminal tribunals are not the whole story about atrocities. The conflicts and ethnic power grabs that have swamped so many societies in the latter part of the 20th century and into the new millennium pose enormous challenges for accountability, for reconciliation, and for prevention of further atrocities.
In Sierra Leone this week, the efforts of the international community to bring peace to that country suffered a serious setback. We are appalled by the killing and detention of UN peacekeepers and efforts to obstruct the disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation process. We have condemned these actions in the strongest possible terms, and reiterated our support for the strong and courageous performance of the UN forces [UNAMSIL] and the resolve of its leaders. The behavior of the Revolutionary United Front, or RUF, and its leader, Foday Sankoh, is unacceptable. The actions of Sankoh and the RUF need to be reversed immediately.
The Lome Accords represented a package of compromises that provided the RUF an opportunity to play a legitimate political role in Sierra Leone. If the Accords are broken, the provisions of that agreement are jeopardized.
We join the international community in demanding that the RUF and Sankoh personally discharge their responsibilities to the agreement they signed at Lome -- including disarmament and demobilization -- and that, as Sankoh promised on Wednesday, they immediately release all those they are holding and adhere to the cease-fire agreement and the accords they have signed.
In recent months we have been working with the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, to help set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for by the Lome Peace Accords. We are identifying U.S. funds that would be joined with other governments' contributions to help set up the Commission, which will be essential for establishing the truth about the atrocities that have plagued Sierra Leone's recent past and for moving towards reconciliation. We are resolved to continue this work.
Let me turn now to the situation in Chechnya. For months the President and I and other high-level U.S. officials have made very clear to the Russian Government our deep concern about the events in Chechnya and have urged them to pursue a political rather than military solution. In Geneva, we co-sponsored the recent U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution on Chechnya. In that resolution, we share the grave concern of other governments about the continued violence in Chechnya, in particular about the "reports indicating disproportionate and indiscriminate use of Russian military force, including attacks against civilians... reports of attacks against civilians and serious crimes and abuses committed by Chechen fighters... [and] reports that gross, widespread and flagrant violations of human rights have been committed in the region, notably in the alleged 'camps of filtration.'"
We will continue to press the Russian Government to do the right thing and fulfill its responsibilities under international law. Reports of rape, summary executions, looting, and other atrocities must be faithfully investigated. The Geneva resolution calls upon Russia to "establish urgently, according to recognized international standards, a national, broad-based and independent commission of inquiry to investigate promptly alleged violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law ... to establish the truth and identify those responsible, with a view to bringing them to justice and preventing impunity."
To those who would criticize the international community for going easy on Russia, I would point out that there is value in an approach that gives domestic accountability efforts a chance to take hold: Late last year, the U.N. Human Rights Commission convened a special session on the situation in East Timor. In addition to condemning the violence, and calling for an international commission of inquiry, the Human Rights Commission called on the Government of Indonesia to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the atrocities associated with last year's referendum in East Timor.
The bottom line is that those responsible for orchestrating this bloodbath must be brought to justice. If the Indonesian judicial system is capable of delivering credible justice, so much the better. If that is not ultimately the case, the international community can and should exert its prerogative to see that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The fact that the international community has given Indonesia the opportunity to fulfill these obligations is paying off. The government-appointed commission of inquiry into violence in East Timor produced a well-documented report, which has become the basis for criminal investigations.
Just this week, the Indonesian Attorney General appointed a 64-member team to pursue criminal investigations with a view to issuing indictments. The team wasted no time in bringing in several top generals for questioning. The prospects are promising for a credible and effective domestic accountability process that hardliners cannot dismiss as a Western-imposed, politically-motivated version of victors' justice. As an added benefit, Indonesia's judicial capacity and credibility will be enhanced.
Meanwhile, the international community has a role to play. The UN Transitional Administration in East Timor is doing its part in documenting what transpired in that orgy of violence and in laying the groundwork for credible accountability. Their work includes the exhumation of mass graves, performing field autopsies, and helping to re-build the rule of law so that those who are responsible can be brought to justice.
We are very pleased with the cooperation between the UN and the Indonesian Government toward this end; just recently UNTAET and the Government of Indonesia signed a memorandum of understanding that provides a framework for the sharing of information and might even allow for joint investigations. There is certainly enough work to go around to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and competition for suspects and resources.
The international community also has an important role to play in Cambodia. Considerable progress has been made in talks between the United Nations and Prime Minister Hun Sen to create a credible process to bring to justice the senior Khmer Rouge leaders of the Pol Pot era, when an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians perished needlessly. We are grateful for the facilitating role Senator John Kerry has played in these talks and look forward to the day when investigations and trials begin with significant foreign participation.
The indictment of Saddam Hussein and his colleagues for some of the worst war crimes and crimes against humanity of recent decades is long overdue. Saddam's brutality continues against the Iraqi people, whether the Sunni tribes, the Shi'a of the south or the Kurds, Turkomen and other minorities in the north. The people of Iraq deserve the best efforts of the international community to collect the evidence against Saddam and then bring him to justice. That is no easy proposition, but we are determined to see it done and for Iraq to be governed by a free and democratic government dedicated to the welfare of its own people.
Finally, the United States long led the effort to create an appropriate permanent international criminal court. We recently introduced a proposal to overcome our long-standing concern about the jurisdictional reach of the proposed international criminal court. Our proposal, which we are actively discussing with other governments, does not seek to amend or otherwise modify the 1998 Rome Treaty on the International Criminal Court.
Rather, we are seeking a procedural fix that is consistent with the Rome Treaty and will enable the United States at a minimum to be a "good neighbor" to the Court. The benefits for the Court of this shift in our policy would be significant; even as a non-party for the foreseeable future, the United States would be able to assist the Court in ways similar to our support for the Yugoslav and Rwanda Tribunals.
Thank you again for this opportunity to address a subject that I cared deeply about even before I became a public official. And thank you for being messengers of truth whose dispatches are our daily challenge.
Thank you very much.
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