Tribunal at a 'Turning Point'

In his first appearance as Tribunal president, Judge Jorda says the imperative for more arrests must be met by more resources and more efficient procedures.

Tribunal at a 'Turning Point'

In his first appearance as Tribunal president, Judge Jorda says the imperative for more arrests must be met by more resources and more efficient procedures.

Saturday, 29 January, 2000

In his initial appearance before journalists as the president of the Tribunal, Judge Claude Jorda presented his list of priorities last Thursday. The arrest of all the accused - "above all the principal architects of the atrocities committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia" - came top of the list.

Jorda also afforded great importance to the speeding up of court procedures. "If all the accused were to be arrested tomorrow or today, when and how would we be in an position to judge them in accordance with the principles of justice as recognised throughout the civilised world at the end of a fair and expeditious trial?"

Even though he believes that the Tribunal is "functioning well" and has so far "acquired definite credibility", Jorda said the ICTY is "at a turning point in its history".

One of the main reasons for his concern is "the length of preventative detention. Despite the nature of the atrocities committed, international criminal justice cannot easily move away from the universally recognised criteria governing detention. At the same time, demands cannot be made for all the accused to be arrested only for them then to be possibly released without standing trial."

A group of experts mandated by the United Nations has recently analysed every aspect of the Tribunal's operations and its final report was published last Tuesday.

Jorda wants to draw "maximum advantage from the report" and has already, in concert with the other judges, identified several approaches that can be categorised into two distinct groups: procedural matters/legal organisation and an increase in resources.

"Where procedural matters are concerned," Jorda said, "we must seek to save time during hearings using all means... If we are to achieve this goal, maximum use needs to be made of our Rules of Procedure and Evidence and, more specifically, pre-trial case management must be both expeditious and rigorous from the moment an accused arrives at the Tribunal. Such case management will, in addition, allow a schedule binding the parties to be set. It goes without saying that the rights of the accused will have to be respected."

"In terms of legal organisation, and this incorporates case management, more efficient use must be made of all our resources, including our human resources. For example, we have three courtrooms and we must exploit them to the full. . . . A way must be found to reconcile the optimal use of the courtrooms with the judges' duties so as to eliminate all the downtime and thereby allow the judges to render judgements soon after trials have ended."

Jorda's goal is to have the three trial chambers each hearing two cases concurrently. He admits that this is an ambitious programme, which he says would need an increase in resources to provide better legal support for the judges. In this respect, Jorda said, the Tribunal has already obtained additional posts for legal officers who will be attached to the Chambers.

Jorda also expects it to be made possible for the Tribunal to hire new judges, although he acknowledges that "it is too early to respond to questions on the character of such judges before having demonstrated that all our resources are being utilised to the maximum."

This week Jorda will visit the United Nations in New York and ask for an increase in resources and insist on the full co-operation of states in carrying out arrests and in producing evidence.

When one journalist pointed out that the UN Security Council has thus far failed to react appropriately and, sometimes, failed to act at all when presented with Tribunal reports of non-cooperation, Jorda responded that "legal time does not always correspond with political time." But Jorda concluded, "The Tribunal is obstinate and that means we are heard."

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