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Security Council backs plan by war crimes tribunal to refer some cases to national courts

Security Council backs plan by war crimes tribunal to refer some cases to national courts

The Security Council today backed a plan by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to shift responsibility for trying lower-lever officials to national jurisdictions in an effort to complete the court’s work as quickly as possible.

In a statement read out at an open meeting by Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom, the body’s current president, the Council said the plan was likely to be in practice the “best way” of allowing the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to achieve its objective of completing all trial activities “at first instance” by 2008.

By today’s action, the Council reiterated its earlier stated understanding that the ICTY should concentrate its work on the prosecution and trial of the civilian, military and paramilitary leaders suspected of being responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991, rather than on minor actors.

In order to facilitate the implementation of this policy, the Council invited countries and relevant international and regional organizations to contribute to the strengthening of national judicial systems of the States of the former Yugoslavia.

The Council also noted the ICTY’s recommendation to create a special chamber within the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina to deal with serious violations of international humanitarian law.

“The Security Council is ready to look constructively and positively at this matter when more details of the proposed arrangements are available,” said the statement, which came after the 15-nation body met behind closed doors for a briefing by the Tribunal’s President, Judge Claude Jorda, Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, and Registrar Hans Holthuis.

“The Council also takes note of the intention of the ICTY to amend its rules of procedure and evidence in order to facilitate the referral of cases to competent national jurisdictions,” the statement said.

Speaking at a press conference later in the day, Judge Jorda said that he and his colleagues were pleased by the Council statement because it addressed many of the issues of concern to ICTY and, in particular, contained an endorsement of the plan to give countries responsibility for trying lower-level suspects.

The Council’s support was necessary, Judge Jorda noted, because it gave the Tribunal the legal, statutory, and regulatory means to revise its internal procedures to “delocalize” cases to national jurisdictions. Now other conditions had to be met, he said, adding that countries need to accept cases to try and have jurisdictions capable of trying them in accordance with international standards.