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October 3, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 158
Interview: Richard Goldstone

Eilghty Reliable Witnesses

by Seska Stanojlovic and Duska Anastasijevic

The International Tribunal for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia during the past three years is nearing the end of its long-lasting preparatory work. According to reports from the Hague, headquarters of the ad hoc War Crimes Tribunal, the first indictments will be announced in November.

The Tribunal's Chief Prosecutor, South African judge Richard Goldstone (55), will visit three Balkan capitals this week---Belgrade, Sarajevo and Zagreb.

As leader of the Commission that investigated political violence in South Africa at the beginning of this decade, Judge Goldstone's name became known to the wider international public, outside of legal circles. An uncompromising professional, he did not hesitate to raise accusations against previously untouchable members of the military information service, the police and the highest political circles. Even more important is that he did not taken into consideration skin color while searching for the guilty parties. This gained him the respect and trust of both black and white South Africans and his Commission gained a reputation as one of the most important institutions for the process of national reconciliation in his country.

With such experience behind him, Richard Goldstone now stands before a new, perhaps more difficult, challenge. In an exclusive telephone interview, he answered VREME's questions regarding the preparatory work of the Hague Tribunal and his motives for accepting this challenge: ``Based upon my personal experience, I am convinced that it is very important to assign guilt for serious war crimes. After the second World War, many documents were internationally ratified in the name of protecting human rights, especially in situations of war. There has not been a single attempt to convey them into practice until now. Perhaps some people think that the horror of the crimes is ignored because of this, but it must become clear that they should not be forgotten. I know that these legal proceedings do not have a precedent, but they are important simply because they will be the first attempt to turn declarations of protection of human rights into reality. This is why the Hague Tribunal is exceptionally important. It represents a strong lesson and message for the future, especially if the Tribunal becomes a permanent United Nations institution.''

VREME: Your imminent trip to Yugoslavia has been announced. What is the main purpose of your visit?

GOLDSTONE: I will visit Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo. I expect to meet with official representatives of the respective governments. The purpose of my visit is to discuss the practical aspects related to the announcement of indictments of those who have committed war crimes. I believe that every personal contact can be much more important and effective than months of research and ``digging'' through various papers and documents. Moreover, I have never been to Yugoslavia before and I therefore view my upcoming seven-day trip as exceptionally important.

VREME: You have presumably had enough time to study the UN War Crimes Commission report, better known as Bassouni's report. How do you rate that report from a legal point of view? In other words, do you consider it sufficient evidence for potential indictments?

GOLDSTONE: Certainly not. Our work is based upon extensive gathered evidence, including the testimonies of eighty very reliable witnesses. It is most important for us to establish responsibility for crimes that have been committed, which means: who committed them and who gave the orders. I also want to state that I view those who gave the orders as more accountable than those who obediently carried them out. Let's look at just one example from Sarajevo. It is a fact that people there were killed or wounded by mortars fired from the surrounding mountains. It is easy to claim that this is a war crime. However, it is harder to find and name those who are responsible---those who did the firing and those who gave the orders. I anticipate that my trip to former Yugoslavia will help us find answers to these questions.

VREME: It is said that the first indictments in front of the Hague Tribunal will be made in November. Do you expect that any suspects will be captured by then?

GOLDSTONE: I cannot answer that question. All I can say is that we are doing everything that we possibly can.

VREME: The UN War Crimes Commission and your Tribunal are concerned with crimes against humanity committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. How do you view cooperation with the newly constituted countries and their governments?

GOLDSTONE: At this moment I would prefer to refrain from making any comment. I also do not want to judge this cooperation before I have personally met the representatives of these governments.

VREME: What do you expect from the upcoming debate in the UN General Assembly which will discuss and possibly adopt a Statute establishing a permanent international criminal court?

GOLDSTONE: I know that this has been placed on the agenda and I am very happy about this. This represents a step in the direction of protecting civilians and victims of war in every potential future armed conflict.

VREME: The bloody Yugoslav tragedy has been followed by accusations of collective guilt against certain peoples and ethnic groups. What chance does the Hague Tribunal have to avoid the trap of assigning collective responsibility that many favor and to thereby individualize the guilt?

GOLDSTONE: I am aware of that problem. I am convinced that the syndrome of assigning collective guilt is wrong. Of course, in order to avoid this, reconciliation between the warring parties and a lasting peace are necessary. The Hague Tribunal will concern itself with individual cases and this will help to alleviate the sense of collective guilt.

No Group Indictment

The International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague emphatically denies reports from Podgorica that sixteen Montenegrin journalists are accused of ``war mongering.''

The Tribunal has not indicted the journalists and will not make any group indictments.

At the Tribunal they claim that the news about the indicted journalists is incorrect and represents the product of someone's fantasy.

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