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UN war crimes tribunals cite obstacles to completing work on schedule – new reports

UN war crimes tribunals cite obstacles to completing work on schedule – new reports

Key indictees still at large, overburdened dockets, and lack of predictable funding are highlighted as obstacles in the final phases of the work of the United Nations tribunals prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in separate reports submitted to the Security Council today.

In the case of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Pone, the Tribunal's Prosecutor, said the lack of cooperation of States in arresting and transferring indictees to the court remains the main factor hindering the Tribunal from meeting its 2008 deadline for trying the last of the cases stemming from the ethnic violence of the 1990s.

All three of the Tribunal's trial chambers continue to operate at full capacity, handling six cases simultaneously, with 51 persons awaiting trial, she said.

She added that the number of fugitives has been cut in half and there has been progress in the cooperation provided by Serbia and Montenegro on access to witness, while Croatia has provided unrestricted access to both documents and witnesses.

But a number of key fugitives remain at large in those countries, she said. They include former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic and former Croatian Gen. Ante Gotovina.

"As the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide will be commemorated in a few weeks," she said, the failure to arrest and transfer Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic remains a disgrace both for the international community and for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro," she said.

In a separate report, Judge Erik Møse, the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), estimates that by 2008 that Tribunal will have completed trials involving 65 to 70 persons for their roles in the 1994 genocide, depending on the progress of present and future trials.

It also depends on sufficient resources being made available, he said.

Trials of 25 persons are completed, and cases of 25 accused are in progress, he said. Sixteen additional accused are awaiting trial, but the prosecutor intends to transfer five of those cases to national jurisdictions.

The work of the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR was mandated by the Security Council to be finished by 2010, according to the report. However, all the tribunal's judgements except two have been appealed and that Chamber's workload is likely to increase even more, Judge Møse said. There is therefore, he said, a need to increase the number of Appeals judges if the deadline is to be met.

The Security Council is scheduled to hold a public meeting on the completion strategy of both tribunals next Monday.