Briefly Noted...

By Chris Stephen in The Hague (TU 303, 03-07 March 2003)

Briefly Noted...

By Chris Stephen in The Hague (TU 303, 03-07 March 2003)

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

Hague tribunal spokesman Christian Chartier last week urged journalists to keep a sense of proportion when referring to the two Kosovo prison camp guards indicted for war crimes as “small fish”.

Journalists have been speculating that the arrest of the guards marked the departure of prosecutors away from their preferred policy of targeting the “big fish” such as generals and presidents.

But Chartier said the indictment, which alleges 11 murders, was still a serious crime, and that one of this magnitude would be a massive case in any national court.

“I would counsel against the ongoing discussion about small fish and big fish,” said Chartier. “This tribunal is about serious breaches of international law. We have had people in the past who have qualified as small fish. Had they been prosecuted by national prosecutions in their own countries they would have gone down as criminals of the century.”


How much is the life of a Srebrenica Muslim worth? Apparently, the figure is 285 US dollars.

This is the figure the Bosnian Serb republic has been ordered to pay as compensation for the 7,000 unarmed Muslims executed by Bosnian Serb troops outside the town in 1995.

The award of just over two million dollars was made by a panel of Bosnian and international judges of the Human Rights Chamber of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit by the families of 49 victims.

The two Serbs on the panel, which also had two Croats, two Muslims and eight foreign judges, voted against the ruling.

The cash will pay for a graveyard and memorial at the town.


Fed up with grim press facilities at the UN war crimes tribunal, journalists in The Hague have formed the Association of Journalists of the International Criminal Court hoping to persuade the new war crimes court, the ICC, to do better.

The association has 25 members and rising, and hopes to consult regularly with the ICC on media provisions at its new Hague headquarters.

The association will also urge Holland to ease visa restrictions for visiting journalists.


A senior official in one of the world’s top human rights groups this week claimed the United States is pressuring Bosnia to sign a deal giving Americans immunity from some war crimes prosecutions.

Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Programme of Human Rights Watch, said Washington is considering imposing financial penalties unless Sarajevo signs a deal protecting Americans from the International Criminal Court, ICC.

“The government of Bosnia-Herzegovina is now under extreme pressure to sign,” said Dicker. “They have been told that the State Department will consider very serious means if it is not signed. My question is ‘My God haven’t the people of Bosnia suffered enough?’”

The United States has so far concluded ICC prosecution immunity agreements with 24 nations, including ICC members Afghanistan and Romania.

US officials say they fear that the ICC safeguards may be inadequate to prevent politically motivated prosecutions being launched against Americans.

Last year, Washington won UN support for a deal giving their soldiers serving as peacekeepers in Bosnia protection from ICC prosecutions.


The Hague war crimes tribunal has achieved yet another first - it has become probably the only court in the western world where a nearby pub, opened especially for lawyers, has had to close because of lack of customers.

The False Witness, a bar near the court, is no more. The former owner, a Dutch businessman, told IWPR in an exclusive interview - in the taxi he now drives - that he sold it because too few Hague lawyers used it.

As a result, the paintings of judges and lawyers along the walls, a rare sign of individuality in this part of The Hague, are to be whitewashed.

Rumours that it was owned by war criminals - totally untrue - scared away Dutch customers, leaving the owner with no option but to shut. Worst of all is the damage this will do to the hard-drinking reputation enjoyed by Europe’s legal profession.

Elsewhere in the western world, owning a pub near a courthouse is a license to print money. But not in The Hague. Here, it seems, lawyers are much happier, at the end of the day, simply going home, putting their feet up, and sipping a warm cup of cocoa.

Chris Stephen is IWPR’s bureau chief in The Hague.

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