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Ojdanic's Case

Tribunal Update 176 Last Week in The Hague (May 15-24, 2000)

The Tribunal's most potent sanction against recalcitrant states failing to comply with court orders is to file a report with the UN Security Council and to request punitive measures against the offender.

Russia's status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council threatens to expose the hollowness of such sanctions.

Tribunal President Claude Jorda last week requested a "clarification or explanation" from Moscow. The Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte said her spokesman, Paul Risley, was trying to determine if the reports were true and if so "why no steps were taken to arrest an individual indicted by the Tribunal?"

Risley for his part could offer no comment on how the Tribunal would proceed if the reports were to be substantiated. Given Ojdanic was caught by television cameras attending the official World War Two Victory Day parade in Red Square, there seems little doubt the reports are true.

Ojdanic is one of five senior Yugoslav government figures publicly indicted for crimes against humanity in Kosovo at the end of May 1999. At that time international arrest warrants were issued to all UN members countries and Switzerland. Members of the Security Council were sent a copy of the indictment and the arrest warrants.

Tribunal spokesman Jim Landale said subsequent Russian claims that they were "unaware" of the indictment were "not accurate".

Faced with the non-compliance of a permanent member, the Tribunal appears to have few if any sanctions left for those states breaching Article 29 of the Tribunal Statute - "States shall comply without undue delay with any request or order, including the arrest or detention of persons."

The Tribunal has already reported Croatia, Republika Srpska and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the Security Council for non-compliance on numerous occasions to little effect. If the offences of the aforementioned states prompted only a lukewarm response from the Security Council, there is next to no chance of punitive measures being levied against Russia.

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