War crimes tribunal should not close until all suspects are caught, Bosnia tells UN
The United Nations war crimes tribunal set up in the aftermath of the 1990s Balkan wars should not close until the most notorious suspects still at large, the former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, are brought to justice, the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina told the General Assembly today.
Speaking this afternoon at the annual high-level debate at UN Headquarters in New York, Željko Komšić said all suspected war criminals from the various territories of the former Yugoslavia who have not been arrested should be brought before the courts.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands, was set up by the Security Council in May 1993 to deal with the worst violations of international humanitarian law during the Balkan wars.
Mr. Karadžić and Mr. Mladić are two of only four men who are still at large, but under the completion strategy established with the Council, the ICTY has said it will try to finish all trials at the first instance by the end of next year.
A former political leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Mr. Karadžić faces two counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity, three counts of violating the laws or customs of war and one count of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
Mr. Mladić, who led the Bosnian Serb military forces, faces 15 charges, including two of genocide, seven of crimes against humanity and six of violating the rules or customs of war.
Mr. Komšić said authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina had been working closely with the ICTY on issues ranging from extradition and the processing of criminal charges to the provision of working conditions for court representatives and access to documents.
“We are creating a legal framework and have a special department of the War Crimes Court to start processing war crime cases,” he said. “This is one of the conditions for establishing mutual trust and reconciliation in a post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina”
During his address Mr Komšić also stressed the need for urgent UN reform, saying the July 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica – a Security Council-designated “safe area” – was a notorious example of how “my country paid a high price for the imperfect and inefficient UN system.”
Therefore, he said, it was essential that the UN and its various bodies and agencies be strengthened and revitalized, including the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Secretariat.