C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 SARAJEVO 001403
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR (DICARLO), EUR/SCE (STINCHCOMB, HOH),
EUR/ACE (DUNN) S/WCI (WILLIAMSON, LAVINE); NSC FOR BRAUN;
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2017
TAGS: PREL KAWC ICTY KJUS PGOV BK
SUBJECT: AMB. WILLIAMSON DELIVERS STRONG MESSAGE ON PIFWCS,
WAR CRIMES PROSECUTIONS
REF: SARAJEVO 1212
Classified By: Amb. Douglas L. McElhaney. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
Â¶1. (C) Summary: During a two-day visit to Sarajevo,
Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues J. Clint Williamson
met with top Bosnian politicians, justice officials and
members of international organizations to discuss improving
Bosnia's justice system in advance of the ICTY's planned 2009
closure. Ambassador Williamson conveyed a clear message that
capturing fugitive war criminals is a top U.S. priority. He
urged Bosnian officials to depoliticize war crimes issues,
improve regional cooperation, develop a domestic prosecution
strategy and build a state prison. Bosnian interlocutors
expressed concern that the difficult political climate was
beginning to have a negative impact on war crimes issues, but
expressed appreciation for continued USG engagement. End
Â¶2. (U) On June 13-14, Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes J.
Clint Williamson met with the BiH Presidency (Zeljko Komsic,
Nebojca Radmanovic, and Haris Silajdzic He also had meetings
with Principal Deputy High Representative (PDHR) Raffi
Gregorian; OSCE Mission Head Ambassador Douglas Davidson;
Srebrenica Mayor Abdurahman Malkic; OSA (State Intelligence
Agency) Director Almir Dzuvo; Prime Minister Nikola Spiric;
Party for Democratic Action (SDA) Vice President and Member
of Parliament Bakir Izetbegovic; Deputy Speaker of the House
of Representatives and HDZ-BiH Vice President Niko Lozancic;
State Court President Meddzida Kreso; and State Chief
Prosecutor Marinko Jurcevic. All expressed appreciation for
the USG's continued engagement and assistance to help Bosnia
resolve these issues. The Ambassador also gave an exclusive
interview to Dnevni Avaz, the largest-circulation daily paper
in Bosnia, and delivered a televised speech to an audience of
politicians, government officials, NGOs and victims advocacy
groups at the Research and Documentation Center in Sarajevo.
Â¶3. (U) During his meetings and in the media, Williamson
stressed several themes:
-- The U.S. attaches great importance to apprehending the
remaining Persons Indicted for War Crimes (PIFWCs). Ratko
Mladic and Radovan Karadzic cannot out wait The Hague
Tribunal. In the event that they are captured after the ICTY
close-out, some international mechanism must be created to
deal with them.
-- While war crimes issues are understandably integral to
domestic politics, politicians must not to exploit or
manipulate them for political gain.
-- Bosnia would benefit from increased regional prosecutorial
cooperation on war crimes cases, including transferring
evidence to neighboring countries that have prohibitions
against extraditing defendants.
-- Bosnia's leaders need to provide political, financial, and
institutional support to the State Court and State
Prosecutor's office, including backing a prosecution strategy
to prioritize the large number of war crimes cases.
-- As the recent escape of Radovan Stankovic from Foca Prison
(reftel) demonstrates, there is a clear need for a high
security State Prison to house convicted war criminals.
PIFWC Captures a Matter of Serbia's Political Will
Â¶4. (C) Ambassador Williamson's Bosnian and international
interlocutors generally agreed that the recent arrest of
PIFWC Zdravko Tolimir (reftel) was evidence that the
apprehension of Mladic, Karadzic and other remaining PIFWCs,
who are likely in Serbia, was purely a matter of political
will in Belgrade. Croat Presidency member Zeljko Komsic said
he was not sure whether to be pleased Tolimir was finally at
The Hague, or outraged that his so-called "capture" was
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clearly staged by Serbian authorities.
Â¶5. (C) Party for Democratic Action (SDA) Vice President and
Member of Parliament Bakir Izetbegovic told Ambassador
Williamson that if Mladic and Karadzic were not captured, it
would be a huge blow to the international community's
credibility here, particularly because, "Bosniak defenders
have gone to jail while these men remain at liberty."
Bosniak Presidency member Haris Silajdzic said arresting
Mladic and Karadzic was in some ways beside the point. He
reiterated his familiar maximalist position, stating that the
priority should be dismantling their "project" by abolishing
the Republika Srpska (RS) and granting Srebrenica legal
Â¶6. (C) PDHR Raffi Gregorian observed that Serbian Prime
Minister Vojislav Kostunica has never publicly called for
Mladic's arrest. He noted that he and Karadzic have now been
at large longer under Kostunica's democratic government than
they were when Milosevic was in power. According to PDHR
Gregorian, Bosnian authorities have had some success freezing
the assets of PIFWC Stojan Zupljanin's support network.
However, they were just beginning to focus on the Karadzic
network, and were not putting sufficient pressure on
Karadzic's family. PDHR Gregorian judged that there was
insufficient coordination between the ICTY and NATO, and the
ICTY public outreach program in Bosnia was inadequate.
Â¶7. (C) OSA Director Almir Dzuvo told Ambassador Williamson
that his agency had very good cooperation with the RS
Ministry of Interior (MUP), as well as with Serbian and
Montenegrin intelligence services. Dzuvo said the November
meeting in Montenegro for regional intelligence services,
hosted by S/WCI and the ICTY, had helped build that
cooperation. Dzuvo told Ambassador Williamson he was
interested in hosting a similar gathering in the future.
When asked about the specifics of Tolimir's apprehension,
Dzuvo said that he was not really interested in the
circumstances surrounding the arrest; the important thing was
that Tolimir is now at The Hague. Interestingly, when asked
directly by Ambassador Williamson, Dzuvo noted that not a
single Bosnian politician had come to him to discuss the
whereabouts of the fugitives. "Only the ICTY, the U.S. and
the UK seem interested anymore," he said.
Depoliticizing War Crimes
Â¶8. (C) Mayor Abdurahman Malkic told Ambassador Williamson
that politicization of Srebrenica's history and current
status was inevitable as long as the justice system remained
incapable of adequately addressing war crimes. He said that
if plans to open a satellite State Prosecutor's Office in
Srebrenica were realized, it would demonstrate that the
government was finally ready to deal seriously with these
issues, including the so-called "Srebrenica list" of alleged
war crimes perpetrators who still hold positions in RS
government or law enforcement.
Â¶9. (C) However, all the officials were skeptical that Bosnian
politicians, as PM Nikola Spiric put it, were "adult enough"
to put ethnic politics aside to address war crimes cases.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and HDZ-BiH
Vice President Niko Lozancic said it was very difficult to
have a civil conversation in Parliament about war crimes,
because "one group's war criminal was another group's hero."
When politicians circled the ethnic wagons, he told
Ambassador Williamson, even those who privately disagreed
were forced to fall in line.
Â¶10. (C) Ambassador Williamson urged more dialogue between the
government and the judiciary on administrative and financial
issues, noting that confining discussions to these matters
would not threaten judicial independence. While agreeing
that the government should provide tangible support to the
State Court and Prosecutor's Office, Presidency members and
parliamentarians claimed to be unaware of specific resource
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needs. Spiric said Court President Kreso and Chief
Prosecutor Jurcevic had never approached the Council of
Ministers about these issues. Izetbegovic characterized
Parliament as a reactive body, and encouraged the State Court
and Prosecutor's Office to be proactive in lobbying for their
resource needs. Izetbegovic hypothesized that the Ministry
of Justice and Parliament should create a new commission to
interact more closely with the Court and Prosecutor's Office.
Lozancic also suggested that the Ministry of Justice should
become the conduit for communication between the two branches
Â¶11. (C) When Ambassador Williamson told Kreso that political
leaders felt the current level of communication with the
Court was insufficient, she appeared surprised and replied
that the Court had developed a good working relationship with
the Ministries of Treasury and Justice, and, through them,
Parliament. Jurcevic also insisted that he had already
conveyed to Parliament his specific resource needs, but
claimed politicians had no interest in solving these
Domestic Prosecution Strategy
Â¶12. (C) Spiric said that building up the credibility of the
State Court and Prosecutor's Office before the ICTY closes in
2009 was just as important as building institutional
capacity. He said the State Prosecutor's Office would have
his full support for creating a strategy, but cautioned that,
despite being Prime Minister, his capabilities were limited.
Komsic said he also supported the strategy, but agreed with
Ambassador Williamson that the Prosecutor must continue
pursuing cases while it was being developed.
Â¶13. (C) PDHR Gregorian said OHR has been pressing the Chief
Prosecutor to act on the Srebrenica list, including at one
point giving him over 100 files to consider. The PDHR
expressed concern that Jurcevic might not be up to the job,
and said OHR was beginning to consider replacing him. For
his part, Jurcevic told Ambassador Williamson he accepted
PDHR Gregorian's view that Srebrenica prosecutions should be
his top priority, and said that he would support the idea of
opening a satellite prosecutor's office in Srebrenica --
provided the international community paid for it.
Â¶14. (C) The meeting with Jurcevic was particularly
unproductive. In response to constructive suggestions as to
how to improve the functioning of his office and insulate him
from political pressure, Jurcevic focused on what everyone
else has to do to improve the situation besides himself.
Â¶15. (C) Jurcevic said Bosnia needs two war crimes prosecution
strategies: an internal strategy for the State Prosecutor's
Office, and a national strategy for the war crimes trials
that are occurring throughout the country. However, he went
on to assert that the strategy (trying the 11bis cases at
state court and parceling out rules of the road cases in
accordance with prosecutorial guidelines) already existed.
(Note: Jurcevic's so-called 'strategy' identifies the many
thousand rules of the road cases as a single 'category,' and
is thus ineffective in parceling out priorities among this
large group. End Note.) Jurcevic and Kreso both rejected the
notion of working together to develop new guidelines for
handling cases. Jurcevic said the Criminal Procedure Code
clearly specifies the independence of courts and prosecutors.
Regional Cooperation Needed
Â¶16. (C) Kreso complained that neighboring countries were
conducting parallel investigations of the same war crimes
suspects without coordinating with Bosnia. Ambassador
Williamson suggested that increased regional prosecutorial
cooperation would help alleviate this problem. Kreso,
however, replied the Court needed more time to develop case
law to govern keeping or transferring war crimes cases
transnationally. She insisted that any effort by the High
Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) or Parliament to
impose criteria would impinge upon judicial independence.
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Kreso conceded that if the State Prosecutor's Office
suggested criteria for domestic and transnational case
transfers, the judges would consider them.
Â¶17. (C) For his part, Jurcevic told Ambassador Williamson he
was powerless to do anything concrete, adding that Parliament
must change the laws that were now impeding regional
cooperation. Ambassador Williamson cautioned that the public
was losing patience with what it perceived as an excessively
slow and unsystematic process, and this was undermining
public confidence in the State Court and Prosecutor's Office.
Â¶18. (C) Lozancic asserted that regional cooperation
agreements at the prosecutorial level would not produce
results. He suggested the Prosecutor's Office and State
Court discuss the matter with the Justice Ministry, which
should then convey it to Parliament for a government
decision. Spiric said he supported enhanced regional
cooperation, and told Ambassador Williamson that he would
personally discuss the issue with the Court President and
Â¶19. (C) Izetbegovic was of the opinion that Bosnia could work
with Croatia and Montenegro on prosecutorial cooperation.
However, he was certain the Serbian government would misuse
information to warn defendants or deliberately mismanage
cases. Ambassador Williamson emphasized during his meetings
that case transfers were wholly discretionary. He added that
he understood Bosnia's skepticism about Serbia's attitude
towards war crimes prosecutions, and suggested that Bosnia
cooperate with Croatia or Montenegro on a test case, and move
towards eventual cooperation with Serbia.
Â¶20. (C) OSCE Mission Head Ambassador Davidson said the
standoff between Judge Kreso and Chief Prosecutor Jurcevic on
transferring cases to foreign jurisdictions seemed to be more
a personal power struggle than a result of political
pressures. He said the OSCE might be able to serve as an
umbrella organization to facilitate regional cooperation,
once the Bosnians were truly ready to move forward with
formal agreements. He noted that both institutions needed to
have better public outreach.
State Prison Needed
Â¶21. (C) There was general agreement that Bosnia needed a
State Prison to house war criminals. Ambassador Williamson
lobbied Parliamentary leaders on the need for Bosnian
state-level funding for the Prison beyond what is currently
budgeted. PDHR Gregorian noted also the importance of
creating a law on criminal sanctions at the State level.
Gregorian explained that, because war criminals currently
serve their sentences in entity prisons, entity penal laws
apply. These laws granted privileges for good behavior, such
as weekend furloughs, that were inappropriate for convicted
war criminals. He told Ambassador Williamson it was
frustrating to see Parliament spend money it does not have on
the wrong things. Izetbegovic suggested Parliament might be
able to find additional funds to help build the prison, but
did not go into further details. (Note: The Bosnian
government recently pledged to contribute 1 million Euros to
the project. End Note.)
Â¶22. (C) There has been no meaningful attempt by any group to
separate war crimes issues from the nationalist politics that
is currently paralyzing Bosnia. Rather, politicians have
demonstrated that they view the manipulation of war crimes as
a legitimate means to advance their respective nationalist
platforms. Although Bosnian political leaders told Ambassador
Williamson they supported depoliticizing war crimes issues,
improving regional cooperation, developing a domestic
prosecution strategy and building a state prison, each spoke
as if they individually had no role in that effort.
Continued pressure on the State Court President and Chief
Prosecutor to collaborate on lobbying Parliament for
resources, developing a domestic war crimes prosecution
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strategy and improving regional cooperation will be important.