More international cooperation crucial, say UN judges investigating atrocities

More international cooperation crucial, say UN judges investigating atrocities

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Senior officials from the United Nations courts set up to try those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the atrocities committed during the Balkan wars today appealed for bolstered cooperation from Member States to apprehend perpetrators of these horrendous crimes and bring them to justice.

The Presidents of both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) expressed frustration that several fugitives are still at large, as they presented the reports of their respective bodies to the General Assembly.

Although two of six longstanding fugitives of the ICTY have been apprehended in the 12-month period from 1 August 2006 to 31 July this year, several key fugitives – Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadžic – have yet to be arrested.

“We do not believe that nobody knows where these fugitives are and consider the continued failure to effect their arrest… to be an affront to justice and the rule of law over impunity,” said ICTY President Fausto Pocar.

“Indeed, that failure stands in contradiction to the very principles that were proclaimed by the international community and upon which the establishment of the International Tribunal was based,” he added.

ICTR President Dennis Byron also urged the assistance of the international community to secure the arrests of the 15 accused still at large.

“The nations represented today must recognize the risks posed to achieving international justice if they remain fugitives,” he declared.

Both judges also underscored the problem in retaining their respective staffs, calling for support for retention policies.

The Hague-based ICTY, Judge Pocar noted, is “operating at unprecedented speed with seven trials running simultaneously in its three court rooms,” and its “efficiency results directly from the commitment and dedication of the individuals who carry out its activities.”

However, given that working at the ICTY is “not without its pressures,” he said there are problems in retaining staff. In anticipation of its work wrapping up in 2010, “talented members of the staff are leaving the International Tribunal for more attractive employment in other institutions dedicated to the cause of international justice, including on offers from other UN bodies.”

At the ICTR, based in Arusha, Tanzania, “staff departures are on the rise” and the vacancy rate – reaching 20 per cent for professional staff and above as of the end of this September – is also increasing, Judge Byron said.

The situation is being exacerbated by the impending close of the Tribunal as staff seek more stable jobs, and “unless something is done to slow down this trend there is the likelihood that this could negatively impact on the completion strategy,” he stated.

Under the completion strategy that the tribunals reached with the Security Council, they are aiming to complete all trials at first instance by the end of next year and all appeals by the end of 2010.