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UN war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia warns it may not complete work on schedule

UN war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia warns it may not complete work on schedule

Security Council
The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will probably have to conduct trials through 2009, senior court officials told the Security Council today.

In an open meeting, during with the Council also reviewed the completion strategy of the UN war crimes tribunal for Rwanda, ICTY President Theodor Meron said that more time was required for the court to complete its work partly because 50 per cent more people were now awaiting trial than the last time the Council had discussed it – a dramatic increase.

The Council-imposed "completion strategy" calls for the tribunals to finish their investigations by the end of this year, complete all trials at the first instance by 2008 and wind up all their work by the end of 2010.

Judge Meron and Tribunal Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte also emphasized the importance of arresting the most notorious fugitives indicted by the Tribunal, including Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and Ante Gotovina, to complete its mandate.

"Despite all the progress made, it is obvious that the great expectations placed by the victims in the international community and in the ICTY have not been met and will not be realized until Karadzic and Mladic are in The Hague," Ms. Del Ponte stressed.

She noted, however, a positive change in the attitude of Serbian authorities. Access to documents and witnesses was continuously improving. Most importantly, Serbia had finally started to transfer fugitives and newly indicted persons. Since December 2004, the Serbian Government had transferred 14 accused, including six who had been indicted for the massacre in the town of Srebrenica.

Judge Erik Møse, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), said that there has been steady progress in that Tribunal's work, with trials scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008.

A major concern for completing the ICTR's work was finding the right balance between the steady progress of trials with multiple defendants and those with single defendants, Judge Møse said. That would not be easy, particularly because the multiple trials required a lot of time in court.

In addition to the 50 accused whose trials had been completed or were in progress, 16 detainees were awaiting trial in the Arusha detention facility and their trials would start as soon as courtroom space allowed.

Noting that the tracking and apprehension of fugitives were a high priority for the ICTR as well, Judge Møse said its Tracking Unit had strengthened its operations with more staffing, greater presence in the field and wider contacts with officials in the countries where the 14 fugitives were being sought.

Officials of both the Rwandan tribunal and that of the former Yugoslavia noted that the successful completion of their work depended on adequate funding and other support from the international community.