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Pocar: International Support for Trials Must Continue

Tribunal president says ICTY work would have to extend beyond its scheduled closure date.
By Merdijana Sadović
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly this week, Hague tribunal president Judge Fausto Pocar said UN member countries must keep supporting war crimes prosecutions.

“The fight against impunity must continue to remain a priority for the international community, and toward this end, the international community must continue helping judges, prosecutors and human rights advocates, in particular in the former Yugoslavia, to entrench the rule of law by bringing to justice those responsible for international crimes,” said Pocar on October 13.

In his speech, the president said that the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, would have to extend past its current deadline set by the UN Security Council.

All Hague trials and all appeals were supposed to be completed by the end of 2008 and 2010 respectively. However, it is already clear that the tribunal will not be able to meet these deadlines, due to late arrests of several fugitives and a significant number of cases that haven’t been completed yet.

“I must once again emphasise that while the tribunal has done its utmost to expeditiously conduct and complete its cases, the late arrests of fugitives – for which the international community must take responsibility – will inevitably lead to slippages in the scheduled end of our proceedings,” said Pocar.

The tribunal president gave an overview of current trials ongoing at the tribunal.

“Twenty-two individuals are currently on trial, six are awaiting the delivery of their judgement, ten are on appeal, and five are expecting the imminent start of their trial, including four who were only arrested in recent months,” he said.

He also informed the General Assembly that the cases of 116 of the 161 individuals indicted by the ICTY Office of the Prosecutor, OTP, were complete and that proceedings had started for all of the 43 remaining indictees, except for the two outstanding fugitives, Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic and former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic.

In his address, Pocar commended the Serbian government for arresting former fugitives Stojan Zupljanin and Radovan Karadzic earlier this year, noting that this was a crucial step towards the completion of the tribunal’s cases.

However, he emphasised that “we cannot successfully accomplish our work if the last two remaining fugitives… are not arrested immediately”.

Pocar also addressed the legacy of the tribunal and the continuation of its work by domestic courts in the former Yugoslavia.

“One must not forget that, in addition to 13 cases referred by the tribunal [to national judiciaries] thousands of war crimes cases are currently pending or being investigated by domestic judicial institutions,” he said.

“Therefore, the continuing support of the international community to domestic institutions remains absolutely essential to guaranteeing the lasting establishment of the rule of law.”

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s Hague programme manager.

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