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Pocar: Retain Court After 2010

President says closing down tribunal altogether in 2010 could give impression that impunity is tolerated.
The president of the Hague tribunal Fausto Pocar says the court could continue to operate on a much smaller scale after its official closure in 2010 to try outstanding war crimes fugitives.

"It's important that we don't leave the impression that some crimes have gone unpunished, and that those individuals who are evading justice don't think that they just have to hide until the tribunal stops working to avoid trial,” Pocar told Russian agency RIA Novosti this week.

According to a completion strategy imposed by the UN Security Council, the Hague tribunal has to wrap up all first instance trials by the end of this year, and all appeals by the end of 2010.

However, four war crimes fugitive are still on the run - Goran Hadzic, Stojan Zupljanin, as well as Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his army chief Ratko Mladic.

Many believe that the tribunal’s mandate will not be successfully completed if all remaining fugitives, especially Karadzic and Mladic, are not tried by the court.

"But if they're not [caught soon], I can imagine that retaining such a big structure as the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the expectation of the arrest of the four people would be very complicated for the international community,” Pocar told RIA Novosti.

He added that for this reason the tribunal is looking at the possibility of retaining a reduced contingent of staff which would begin to work when the arrests were made, and after the official closure of this court.

The new Hague chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz, who conducted his first visit to the Balkans last week, also said it was "hard to imagine" that the tribunal would end its work before the remaining war crimes fugitives are arrested.

In last week’s interview for Brussels daily Le Soir, Brammertz even left the possibility open of narrowing the indictment against Mladic should he be brought to The Hague for trial, so that his case would be completed in a reasonable time.

"That is a matter we will certainly discuss," Brammertz told Le Soir.

Merdijana Sadovic is IWPR’s Hague programme manager.

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