UN war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia urges States to help arrest suspects

UN war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia urges States to help arrest suspects

With several accused war criminals from the former Yugoslavia still at large, including a number of high-ranking military and political officials, the United Nations court charged with prosecuting them is calling on all States to fully cooperate in its work.

In a report to the UN General Assembly and Security Council released today, the President of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judge Claude Jorda, details reforms the court has undertaken to cope with an increased workload and to focus on the most serious violations. The Tribunal says it aims to complete investigations by 2004 and trials by around 2008.

The report stresses that the “effective and rapid arrest of the accused at large is a sine qua non” if the Tribunal’s strategy is to be properly carried out, and remains dependent on unfailing international cooperation. “Indeed, only if all the actors concerned cooperate fully with the Tribunal will it be able to accomplish the reforms already implemented and those now under consideration and thus complete the mandate given to it by the Security Council: to combat impunity and render justice to the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the report says.

As part of the reform measures, the Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber underwent significant changes to cope with the foreseeable increase in its workload, adding two judges from the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and reaching a cooperative agreement with that court on rationalizing its working methods. Amendments were made to the rules of procedure and evidence and “Practice Directions” were adopted to allow some of the difficulties encountered in appeals proceedings to be resolved.

“The reform should moreover ensure that the case law of the Appeals Chambers of the Tribunal and ICTR is more consistent and that their working methods are rationalized,” the report says, noting that the cooperation agreement between the two Tribunals will promote an institutional rapprochement of the two Appeals Chambers.

Aiming to initiate a completion strategy for the Tribunal’s mandate, the court has agreed to focus more on the prosecution of the most serious crimes while, under certain conditions, referring some cases to national courts.

The addition of a pool of temporary, or “ad litem,” judges enabled the Tribunal to deal with its cases more rapidly, according to the report, which notes that the court is now operating at full capacity, conducting six simultaneous first instance trials every day.

Judge Jorda is scheduled to brief the Security Council on the court’s work on Tuesday.