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Croatia does not recognise the 'Rules of the Road'

Tribunal Update 38: Last Week in The Hague (July 21-26, 1997)

Such a review is envisaged in the Rome Agreement of February 1996. It prevents the Bosnian sides from making arrests on the basis of accusations of war crimes before they have received confirmation from the Hague that there is sufficient evidence. Since its goal is to make the freedom of movement easier, the procedure was named "Rules of the Road."

The Tribunal decided to make the offer after receiving the warnings from several quarters that the Croatian authorities approach was damaging. General Jacques Klein, the UN administrator of Eastern Slavonia, stated that 150 suspected war criminals had been listed in his area alone.

The relatives of Serbs who have been accused, arrested or already sentenced in Croatia have contacted the OTP office in Belgrade, demanding Tribunal's involvement in the interest of truth and justice. "Veritas", the Association of Serbs from Croatia, has handed the OTP several lists naming a total of 130 people it claims have been wrongly accused and prosecuted.

Although, he was aware that Croatia does not accept the Rome Agreement, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Graham Blewitt sent the Zagreb government a letter in mid-June offering to use the "Rules of the Road" scheme to review the cases of 150 people suspected in Eastern Slavonia and of those from the "Veritas" lists. Blewitt says it was a "good faith offer", intended to contribute to the easing of tension, reconciliation and establishment of good relations.

At the end of June, Zagreb's reply arrived at The Hague. The OTP suggestion had been duly considered but ultimately rejected. Blewitt was disappointed: "If they had handed over material evidence to us, we would have reviewed it in order to prevent arbitrary arrests and to ensure that in those cases where there is a basis for criminal prosecution that this be done in accordance with international standards. This is the only thing we could have done, since we are not able to investigate so many cases ourselves, nor to request their deferral."

Although the international community has put pressure on all Balkan sides to ensure the just treatment of suspected war criminals, The Hague remains the only place where the accused can expect a fair trial.