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

Regional Report: Jorda Urges UN Action on Belgrade

War crimes court president says Belgrade cooperation is partial at best.
By Chris Stephen

Hague tribunal president Judge Claude Jorda last week called on the UN Security Council to pressurise Yugoslavia into handing over war crimes suspects in his annual report.


The week before, he had highlighted the presence of 11 indicted Serbs, among them the current Serb president Milan Milutinovic, who have not been handed over by Yugoslavia.


"The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) is cooperating at best only partially – and that is a euphemism - in the gathering of evidence and arrest of the accused, even though some of them have already been indicted for several years. In particular I have in mind Ratko Mladic, indicted on 24 July 1995, that is more than seven years ago!" said his report.


He said the new law on cooperation with the tribunal passed this year by Yugoslavia "explicitly violates the basic provisions of our Statute and, in particular, the principle of primacy".


In the 9th tribunal annual report, Judge Jorda said that without pressure, he was unable to complete the schedule for finishing trials of all suspects by 2008, as the Security Council asked for earlier this year.


"We will be able to honour our commitments towards the international community – namely to complete investigations by around 2004 and trials by 2008 – only if the high-ranking political, military and civilian leaders are arrested and brought before the tribunal without delay," he said.


He asked for funds from the international community to allow up to ten war crimes cases now awaiting trial in The Hague to be sent to a new court responsible for "violations of international law" in Bosnia.


Jorda said national trials could be held in a national court system, but that money was needed for support and the employment of international judges who would sit alongside Bosnian counterparts.


"Need I remind you, however, that until all the war criminals have been tried, there can be no deep-rooted or lasting peace in the former Yugoslavia? History teaches us that as long as the work of justice remains unaccomplished, the spectre of war can reappear, sometimes even several generations later," he said.


Jorda said a referral strategy was now devised for sending cases to lower courts.


He recalled a referral strategy agreed with chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and reported on in July, noting that the Security Council had agreed that the tribunal’s priority should be cases against leaders rather than "minor actors".


Other matters in his report:


Jorda welcomed establishment of an organisation for defence lawyers working in The Hague. "The effectiveness of the international tribunal’s work should also be improved by the greater discipline to be demonstrated by counsel," he said.


The appeals chamber has been "gradually rationalised" to streamline procedures, and deal with "approximately 20 interlocutory appeals and eight appeals on merits" in the 12 months covered by the report.


Nine new judges mean the court now hears six cases each day, rather than three, in its three courtrooms – typically, cases are split mornings and afternoons. But Jorda said trials still take too long, averaging 17 months. Since January, the court has dealt with 30 cases and pronounced five judgements involving 12 defendants.


Chris Stephen is IWPR bureau chief in The Hague.