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

Pocar: UN Should Keep Tribunal Open

Judge tells Belgrade conference he expects Hague court’s mandate will be extended.
By Aleksandar Roknić

The former president of the Hague tribunal said this week he was sure the United Nations Security Council would give him and his colleagues more time to finish their work, particularly as two suspects remain at large.



The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, is due to close in 2011. But analysts warn that this deadline will leave little time to try Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb president arrested this year, let alone indictees Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic – who are still on the run.



“I believe that the local authorities will do everything they can to detain Mladic and Hadzic and send them for trial to the tribunal,” said Hague tribunal judge Fausto Pocar, while addressing a Belgrade conference entitled, War Crimes Trials – the Current Moment, Results, Prospects.



“The United Nations Security Council can extend the mandate of the court and I believe that they will do so.”



During his speech, he stressed that most of the tribunal’s cases were finished. Twenty-six trials are still ongoing, along with ten appeals, he said.



Pocar pointed out that domestic trials were also taking place in the Balkans, something which he said the tribunal must continue to encourage, as local courts will have to try all cases when it finally closes.



“We are ready to cooperate with local courts in order to facilitate their work on war crimes cases. Lack of cooperation [means] a lack of evidence and [a failure to secure appropriate sentences]. The regional countries must continue their cooperation,” he said.



Serbian officials speaking at the conference also said that the extradition of Mladic and Hadzic, who are indicted for war crimes against Bosniaks and Croats respectively, was necessary and that Serbia would arrest both of the fugitives and send them to The Hague.



“I am convinced that we will arrest the remaining fugitives and fulfil our international obligations,” said Slobodan Homen, state secretary in the ministry of justice.



“We are doing this not because of the international community or the tribunal – we insist on this because it is necessary for Serbia and for justice, for apologising to the victims and also for the moral, material and political damage that the fugitives are inflicting on the country.”



Dusan Ignjatovic, director of the Office of the National Council for Cooperation, agreed.



He said that Serbia was morally obliged to establish the truth about war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia in the Nineties by holding proceedings in local courts and by cooperating with the ICTY.



But most of the conference participants agreed that more resources were needed to ensure the local courts would be able to pick up the strain of prosecuting all trials in the future.



“There are a large number of cases and limited capacity,” said president of Bosnia’s state court Medzida Kreso. “There is also insufficient protection for witnesses in Bosnia and an unsatisfactory level of cooperation [between different countries in the region].”



Alexander Roknic is an IWPR-trained reporter in Belgrade.