Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Court Unlikely to End Work by 2008

Too many unfinished cases, too little cooperation from ex-Yugoslav states, says tribunal president.
By Chris Stephen

The Hague war crimes court is unlikely to be able to finish its work by its target date of 2008, tribunal president Judge Theodor Meron told the United Nations this week.

Delivering his annual report to the UN in New York on October 9, Meron said there were too many cases, and cooperation with former Yugoslav states was going too slowly, to meet the 2008 deadline.

However, at an open briefing on the court's report, Meron said that the trials of the two top wanted men, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, could finish by 2008 if both men were arrested soon.

Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander, and Karadzic, the former president, are among 17 war crimes suspects still at large.

"If there is an unexpected surge in guilty pleas, it may even be possible to complete the trials of some other indicted fugitives within the 2008 goal, but it will not be possible to complete all of them by that time," Meron was quoted as saying. "Trying the cases of all the fugitives without additional guilty pleas would probably require trials at least through 2009."

Judge Meron said Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte had told him that another 30 indictments will be issued. A few of these cases will be included to existing trials, but the bulk will mean fresh trials.

Del Ponte, who also addressed the UN, said she hoped to complete her remaining investigations by 2004.

Both she and Meron said it was vital that there was full cooperation from the states of the former Yugoslavia in making arrests. Croatia and Serbia have both had black marks from the tribunal for failing to hand over key suspects in recent months.

Chris Stephen is IWPR’s tribunal project manager.