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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 17:19 GMT
Transcript: Carla Del Ponte's address
Carla Del Ponte
Del Ponte said Milosevic was driven by quest for power
Excerpts from the address to the international war crimes tribunal by its chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, on the first day of Slobodan Milosevic's trial:

Your honours, the chamber will now begin the trial of this man for the wrongs he is said to have done to the people of his own country and to his neighbours.

How simple that statement is to make today. How easily those words pass into the record of these proceedings and yet how remarkable it is that I am able to speak them here.

A new term - ethnic cleansing - came into common use in our language

Today, as never before, we see international justice in action. Let us take a moment at the start of this trial to reflect upon the establishment of this tribunal and its purpose.

We should just pause to recall the daily scenes of grief and suffering that came to define armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia. The events themselves were notorious and a new term - ethnic cleansing - came into common use in our language.

Some of the incidents revealed an almost medieval savagery and a calculated cruelty that went far beyond the bounds of legitimate warfare.

Worst crimes

The international community was shocked to witness the vicious disintegration of a modern state and the Security Council of the United Nations was quick to recognise the grave threat posed by the serious crimes it believed to have been committed.

These crimes touch every one of us, wherever we live, because they offend against our deepest principle of human rights and human dignity

This tribunal is one of the measures taken by the Security Council acting for all member states of the United Nations to restore and maintain international peace and security. That is our purpose and our unique contribution is to bring to justice the persons responsible for the worst crimes known to humankind.

The crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and the other crimes within the jurisdiction of this tribunal are not local affairs and their prosecution may be beyond the capability of national courts.

Crimes of the magnitude of those indictments before the Chamber affect all of us throughout the world.

Tribunal press room
Her speech was relayed by TV to the press room
The law of this tribunal - international humanitarian law - is the concern of people everywhere. These crimes touch every one of us, wherever we live, because they offend against our deepest principle of human rights and human dignity.

The law is not a mere theory or an abstract concept. It is a living instrument that must protect our values and regulate civilised society and for that we must be able to enforce the law when it is broken.

This tribunal and this trial in particular, gives the most powerful demonstration that no-one is above the law or beyond the reach of international justice.

Personal involvement

As prosecutor, I bring the accused, Milosevic, before you to face the charges against him. I do so on behalf of the international community and in the name of all the member states of the United Nations, including the states of the former Yugoslavia.

Collective guilt forms no part of the prosecution case

The accused in this case, as in all cases before the tribunal, is charged as an individual. He is prosecuted on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility.

No state organisation is on trial here today. The indictments do not accuse an entire people of being collectively guilty of the crimes - even the crime of genocide. It may be tempting to generalise when dealing with the conduct of leaders at the highest level. But that is an error that must be avoided.

Collective guilt forms no part of the prosecution case. It is not the law of this tribunal and I make it clear that I reject the very notion.

I do of course intend to explore the degree to which the power and influence of the accused extended over others, but I stress again that the accused is brought before you to answer for his own actions and for his personal involvement in the crimes alleged against him.

Victims' voices

Your honours, while I bring the indictment as prosecutor in the international public interest, I do not mean to ignore the victims of the crimes committed during the conflict.

Many victims cannot come before you because they did not survive

Much of the development of the law since World War II has been designed to prevent members of the civilian population coming to harm in times of armed conflict. The law itself exists to protect ordinary people not engaged in hostilities.

Even though as prosecutor I do not directly represent any particular victim, I do however consider it to be part of my function in presenting my case to allow voices of the victims to be heard. No court can experience events as the victims themselves, and no court can be expected to do so.

Many victims cannot come before you because they did not survive. Nor is it possible, in the proof of crimes on such a scale as involved in the indictment, to bring all the surviving witnesses to give evidence in court.

Despite the limitations, I am confident that the prosecution case will present to the chamber a full picture of the circumstances of the crimes and of their impact on the people against whom they were directed.

Quest for power

The chamber will receive testimony from high-ranking military figures, diplomats, government representatives and other persons of rank and function, who for different reasons the chamber will understand cannot be named today.

An excellent tactician, a mediocre strategist, Milosevic did nothing but pursue his ambition at the price of unspeakable suffering inflicted on those who opposed him or who represented a threat to his personal strategy for power.

It is up to other courts to make the moral, historical or even psychological diagnosis of the accused

Everything your honours, everything, was an instrument in the service of his quest for power.

One must not seek ideals underlying the acts of the accused. Beyond the nationalist pretext and the horror of ethnic cleansing, behind the grandiloquent rhetoric and the hackneyed phrases he used, the search for power is what motivated Slobodan Milosevic.

They were not his personal convictions, even less patriotism or honour, or even racism or xenophobia, which inspired the accused, but the quest for power, and personal power at that.

This tribunal will write only one chapter, the most bloody one, and the most heart-breaking one - a chapter of individual responsibility of the perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law.

It is up to other courts to make the moral, historical or even psychological diagnosis of the accused, to analyse the social, economic, political dynamics which constituted the basic fabric of the crimes we are going to consider.

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