Open letter from Milosevic prosecutor
by Geoffrey Nice
Letter to The International Herald Tribune from Milosevic’s prosecutor
Hidden from public view
The article ‘Serbia's darkest pages hidden from court’ (9 April) reports that Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the Yugoslavia war-crimes tribunal in The Hague, confirms that she sent a letter in May 2003 to the former Serbian foreign minister, Goran Svilanovic, saying that she would accept the sealing of ‘reasonable’ portions of records that contained minutes of wartime meetings of Yugoslav leaders, including Slobodan Milosevic.
Del Ponte said, ‘It was a long fight to get the documents and in the end because of time constraints we agreed. They were extremely valuable for the conviction of Slobodan Milosevic.’
I led the prosecution of Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia from 2002 to 2006. I do not know who is meant by ‘we.’ I was certainly not one of the we.
The existence of these critical documents was established by members of my team in 2002 and from that time I resisted every effort to have them kept out of the public eye by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I relied on the legal provisions of the ICTY statute and rules to ensure that they were provided on terms of full public accessibility. Del Ponte disregarded my advice and agreed in principle that a substantial part of the records could be kept from the public, as the court subsequently ordered.
There was no legal basis for the withholding of the records from the public. There was no conceivable reason for making a deal with Yugoslavia. It served only one purpose: to keep Belgrade's responsibility from public scrutiny and, significantly, from the International Court of Justice.
Geoffrey Nice, London
16 April 2007