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

International Justice/ICTY: May ‘08

Round table discusses controversy around Serbian military documents used as evidence in the Milosevic trial.
An IWPR round-table debate in The Hague this month discussed transcripts of war-time meetings of Serbia’s Supreme Defence Council, SDC, believed to contain key evidence of Serbia’s role in the recent wars in the Balkans.

They also talked about a major controversy surrounding the ICTY judges’ decision to keep these documents under wraps during the trial of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

The conference was attended by a number of ICTY officials, judges, diplomats, journalists, and legal experts.

The panelists focused on the level of transparency at the ICTY and the effect concealing information about Serbia’s part in the Yugoslav wars has had on justice and reconciliation in the region.

One of round-table speakers was Sir Geoffrey Nice, a former prosecutor in Milosevic trial, who had seen many of protected SDC transcripts.

Although Nice didn’t reveal the exact content of those documents, he told the audience that they included records of meetings between high-level Serbian politicians and military leaders relating to Serbia’s actions during the Bosnian conflict.

However, he emphasised that the documents alone do not clarify to what extent Belgrade was responsible for atrocities in Bosnia.

A second member of the panel, Edina Becirevic, senior lecturer at the University of Sarajevo's Faculty of Criminal Justice Sciences, explained how the ICTY’s handling of the SDC documents had led to scepticism about the court’s purpose.

Marko Atilla Hoare, a former ICTY investigator and a Balkans specialist at the University of Kingston, expanded the debate, discussing its relevance to life in the Balkans today. He explained that the SDC minutes were important “both for the sake of justice and political progress of the region”.

Reflecting the views of ordinary people in the region, Fadila Memisevic, head of the Sarajevo-based section of the Society for Threatened Peoples, read a letter from 1995 Srebrenica massacre survivors to the president of the tribunal, Fausto Pocar. It asked for the SDC documents to be unsealed, as the protective measures left “the victims of the war unable to find peace”.

To read more about the event, see: Ex-Prosecutor Calls for Tribunal Reform

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