President William J. Clinton
The White House
Dear Mr. President,
We, the directors of the undersigned U.S.-based international human rights organizations, are writing to convey our grave concern over reports that a grant of immunity or a country of safe haven is being considered for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. We believe that Milosevic should be arrested promptly and delivered to The Hague to stand trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The United States should make it unequivocally clear, immediately and before such proposals go further, that any country that provides Milosevic with safe haven would be in violation of international law and the statute creating the ICTY. The world should know that the United States will respond firmly to any attempt to grant immunity or asylum to Milosevic or any other indicted war criminal. We have written to the Secretary of State calling for the United States to "state publicly that any country that offers or arranges safe haven for Milosevic will be in breach of Security Council requirements of cooperation with the ICTY and will trigger a diplomatic and economic response." The time for such a statement is now.
We wish to draw your attention to the statement of the spokesman of Carla Del Ponte, Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY, who has pointed out that the only basis for withdrawal of the indictment would be a judicial request by the prosecutor to the Tribunal's chief judge. No judicial justification for such a request (i.e., wrongful indictment, lack of evidence, etc.) exists. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has also reminded the international community that "the question of indictments...falls within the exclusive competence of the Prosecutor and the Trial Chambers."
Granting Milosevic immunity would inevitably give heart to other indicted war criminals who will be tempted to pursue similar abuses and crimes against humanity in the years ahead. Most important, the abandonment of any attempt to enforce the warrants for Milosevic, or, for that matter, other indictees, including Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, would make a mockery of the ICTY and of the civilized world's commitment to enforcing the rule of law. This tribunal stands as one of the great legacies of your administration. It must not be scrapped in the misguided pursuit of short-term expediency. Granting safe haven to the most prominent indicted war criminal would dishonor your legacy, disgrace the tribunal, and dim the prospects of establishing the rule of law.
Mr. President, we implore you to avoid any further ambiguity on the U.S. position on this matter. Without a clear indication that any such "deal" would be rejected, the United States seems to signal acceptance of a grant of immunity to Milosevic as a lawful and reasonable option for action. We categorically reject this approach and urge you to do so as well, as soon and as clearly as possible.
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, Executive Director
International League for Human Rights Len Rubenstein, Executive Director
Physicians for Human Rights
Felice Gaer, Director
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights William Schulz, Executive Director
Michael Posner, Executive Director
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Lynn Thomas, Executive Director
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
Ken Roth, Executive Director
Human Rights Watch