|For information only - not an official document.|
|21 November 2000|
Assembly Hears Reports from International Tribunals
For Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia
Despite Recent Progress, Problems Persist
NEW YORK, 20 November (UN Headquarters) -- “History teaches that as long as the duty of justice has not been discharged, the spectre of war can re-emerge”, Claude Jorda, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, told the General Assembly this morning, as it took up consideration of the Tribunal's report.
In introducing the report, Judge Jorda said that, last February, Croatia had elected a new government, demonstrating its resolve to break with the years of war. A few weeks ago, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had elected a new president, bringing to an end the reign of the indicted Milosevic. As a result, he hoped that the Balkan States would fully respect their international commitments and cooperate with the Tribunal’s mission. The hope of prosecuting indicted high-ranking military and civilian officials had never been so high.
The Tribunal’s workload continued to grow, he said. If there was no reform, the Tribunal’s mission would be finished by 2016, an unacceptable situation. He could not agree to detainees being deprived of their freedom for several years before their fate was decided upon. He stressed that the Tribunal, an ad hoc institution, should reach its goal within the shortest time. Working methods had to be rationalized, operations and structures had to be reformed. Meanwhile, the highest-ranking indicted military and civilian officials remained at large. Those people must, first and foremost, answer for their acts before an international tribunal.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the Tribunal had played an important role in settling the Yugoslav crisis. However, from the beginning it had been unable to avoid politicization and bipartisanship, particularly in its anti-Serb attitudes. Most of those accused were Serbs, and eyes were closed to crimes committed by other parties to the conflict. The prosecutors had often gone beyond the jurisdiction of the Tribunal and trespassed on Security Council territory. Even with regard to the NATO bombing of Kosovo, and even when faced with obvious facts, there had been no investigation of NATO’s errors over Kosovo. The activities of the Tribunal were a threat to the integrity of international law.
His country opposed the practice of prosecutors preparing sealed indictments with a view to hunting down supposed criminals, he said. It was well known that in the course of that hunt, NATO troops had infringed on the territorial sovereignty of States. Furthermore, the financing and staffing of those activities by the international community undermined the impartiality and credibility of the Tribunal. Its budget was excessive and its staff inflated.
The representative of the United States did not share the view that the Tribunal had been unduly politicized or that it was anti-Serb. Good work had been done and remained to be done. No institution was perfect, but the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia deserved respect and gratitude. He was pleased to note that the Tribunal was seeking ways to improve its functions and expected that the Tribunal would remain vigilant about cost-saving matters. The United States would encourage the Security Council to respond positively to proposals for changes to the Statute.
Also this morning, the Assembly took up consideration of the report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Navanethem Pillay, the Tribunal's President, said the work of the Tribunal for Rwanda and that of the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia demonstrated the global desire for justice and respect for international law. The criminal’s responsibility and international justice had now become a reality, and a new avenue of recourse as an alternative to the use of force.
In the first year of its second mandate, the Rwanda Tribunal’s performance had improved, work had accelerated and output had multiplied, she said. Many difficulties, highlighted as obstacles in the past, were now being addressed. She assured the Assembly that the Tribunal was determined to do its utmost to complete the 35 cases awaiting trial within the time of its mandate. In order to fulfil its judicial calendar, however, the Tribunal needed the resources and support recommended in the report.
In evaluating the performance of the Tribunal, the representative of Rwanda said it must improve its pace and register more successes. There should be no more leniency to those who intended to paralyse the process of justice in the Tribunal, for whatever reasons. Stricter rules should be put in place to prevent that trend. He called for more chambers and more judges, and encouraged joint arrangements where several suspects could be tried together. The need to speed up trials would show that “genocide was a result of conspiracy rather than mere individual acts”.
Regarding the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), the Assembly decided to defer consideration and include the item in the provisional agenda of its fifty-sixth session.
The President of the Assembly, Harri Holkeri (Finland), announced that today was the first Africa Industrialization Day of the new millennium. Africa Industrialization Day called for further concerted efforts at national, regional and international levels to transform the continent’s natural resources into processed goods and to raise the overall growth rate of manufacturing. Africa needed to learn from the latest technological wisdom of information and communication technologies in its pursuit of development. With the support of the international community and multilateral agencies, African countries could strengthen their small- and medium-sized industries, which formed the major part of the African private sector.
The representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Norway, United Republic of Tanzania, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa, Benin, Nigeria, Croatia, Iran and Turkey also spoke.
The representatives of Iran and Israel spoke in right of reply.
The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. to take action on a draft resolution on the Special Session of the General Assembly in 2001 for follow-up to the World Summit for Children, and on draft resolutions approved by its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this morning to consider the reports of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, respectively. It was also expected to consider the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on the special session of the Assembly in 2001 for follow-up to the World Summit for Children.
International Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia
The report of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 (document A/55/273) covers the period from 1 August 1999 to 31 July 2000. It explains that the Tribunal was still faced with difficulties, related primarily to the number of accused who remain at large, some of whom are high-ranking, and also to the need to find new resources permitting all the accused to be tried within a reasonable time frame, taking into account the number of ongoing and future cases.
According to the report, three final judgements were delivered during the reporting period, and 13 cases, involving 25 accused, were in trial or pre-trial stages. In total, 37 detainees are currently in the Detention Unit.
During the reporting period, the Office of the Prosecutor was engaged in intensive investigative work in Kosovo, once access to the territory became possible following the end of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) air campaign. On 12 June 1999, Tribunal investigators entered Kosovo with NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops. Three thousand and sixty-six people were interviewed between June 1999 and February 2000. Trial work and appellate work have each increased dramatically in the reporting period.
The report states that the number of indictments made public is 28, involving 97 individuals. Despite the best efforts of the Tribunal, several of the accused held public office with complete impunity. Slobodan Milosevic and other important military officers or high-ranking officials were still at large, and Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic had still not been apprehended even though they were indicted five years ago. In another case, in March 1999, the Prosecutor revealed that Zeljko Raznjatovic (Arkan) had been indicted by the Tribunal, but he was assassinated in January, although the Office of the Prosecutor decided that the indictment would remain sealed for reasons of security.
Cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo continued to produce results. However, cooperation with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had not improved during the reporting period. The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at The Hague continued to refuse any contact with the Tribunal. On the other hand, relations with Croatia since the change in government had shown very positive signs of improving.
In conclusion, the report noted that, to achieve a lasting peace and bring an end to the cycles of violence in the Balkans, it was essential for the ordinary citizens of the region of the former Yugoslavia to be satisfied that justice had been achieved. It was the Prosecutor's firm belief that the conflict in the territory of the former Yugoslavia was sparked by power-hungry politicians who used propaganda and nationalistic sentiments to create an atmosphere of fear and terror, which was then used to motivate ordinary citizens to commit atrocious crimes against their neighbours. It was felt that, by prosecuting the leaders, even down to the municipal level, the Tribunal could lay the foundation for reconciliation.
Africa Industrialization Day
The President of the Assembly, HARRI HOLKERI (Finland), announced that today was the first Africa Industrialization Day of the new millennium. It was an occasion to recognize the tireless efforts of African governments and societies to create sustainable development and improved living conditions. Globalization provided opportunities and challenges for Africa, but latecomers had the advantage of being able to learn from best practices and tested strategies and to use environmental-friendly technologies. For that reason, the industrial development of developing countries might be faster and more stable than it was in those countries that had experienced it earlier.
Africa Industrialization Day called for further concerted efforts at national, regional and international levels to transform the continent’s natural resources into processed goods and to raise the overall growth rate of manufacturing. Africa needed to learn from the latest technological wisdom of information and communication technologies to guide the continent in its pursuit of development. Those innovations should be adapted according to local conditions and needs. There was also a need for basic industries. In that area, one had to be pragmatic, and to maintain and ensure a balance between the two sectors.
He said that, with the support of the international community and multilateral agencies, African countries could strengthen their small- and medium-sized industries, which formed the major part of the African private sector. That was an undertaking which required not only a strategic vision, but the full commitment of entire populations and of the international community.
Question of Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
The Assembly decided that consideration of the item would be deferred and included in the provisional agenda of the fifty-sixth session.
Report of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
The Assembly decided to take note of the fifth annual report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as transmitted in a note by the Secretary-General (document A/55/435).
Introduction of Report
NAVANETHEM PILLAY, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), introduced the Tribunal’s report for the year 1999-2000. She said she hoped that the report carried out the Security Council’s vision at the creation of the Tribunal -- the goal of achieving peace and reconciliation in Rwanda. The work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia demonstrated the global desire for justice and respect for international law. The criminal’s responsibility and international justice had now become a reality and a new avenue of recourse as an alternative to the use of force.
The General Assembly had strengthened the rule of law through signing and ratifying around 40 international instruments in which the Assembly had recognized the importance of the maintenance of international justice. She said that the daily efforts of the ICTR must be viewed in the light of the millennium vision. Furthermore, the jurisprudence of the ad hoc tribunals provided precedence for tribunals being established for Sierra Leone and Cambodia and in emerging international institutions based on the rule of law.
In the first year of its second mandate, the ICTR’s performance had improved, work had accelerated and output had multiplied. She assured the Assembly that the Tribunal was determined to do its utmost to complete the 35 cases awaiting trial within the time of the mandate. Many difficulties highlighted as obstacles in the past were being addressed, she said. The Secretary- General had commissioned a report on the Tribunal’s managing services. She pointed out that in order to fulfil its judicial calendar, the Tribunal needed the resources and support recommended in the report.
FRANCOIS ALABRUNE (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Iceland, said the ICTR had been the first international jurisdiction to hand down convictions for genocide. The verdicts were proof of the international community’s intention to put an end to the impunity that too often went along with violations of international humanitarian law and serious human rights offences. In particular, the European Union supported the Tribunal’s efforts to gather proof of violence of a sexual or sexist nature inflicted in connection with the events submitted to its competence. It was vital that the victims of those crimes should be assured that their attackers must answer to the Tribunal, and that victims should benefit from counseling and support services.
The carrying out of the Tribunal’s mission should also make a major contribution to the restoration of peace in the region. In fulfilling that mission, the Tribunal must meet many challenges regarding its workload and management. The creation of a third Chamber had helped to speed up procedures, and he hailed the progress accomplished thanks to the modifications in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence adopted in 1999. He invited the ICTR, which worked in close collaboration with the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and shared the same Prosecutor and Appeals Chamber, to examine the fields in which improved coordination could impart even greater efficiency.
Year after year, the Tribunal had encountered numerous administrative problems, he said. Important matters relating, for example, to financial oversight and the responsibility of officials in regard to management, remained unresolved, which was a cause for great concern. Only a full and total implementation of the recommendations aimed at improving the Tribunal’s operation would enable it to fulfil the important mission entrusted to it under satisfactory conditions.
The European Union welcomed the resumption of relations of trust and cooperation between the Tribunal and Rwanda, given concrete form by the appointment in October 1999 of a Rwandan Government representative to the Tribunal, he said. It renewed its support for the Tribunal’s programme of news and dissemination of knowledge of its activities. He invited all States to respond to the Secretary-General’s appeal to United Nations Members to agree to use their prisons for the detention of those convicted by the Tribunal for the duration of their sentence. The ICTR was now entering its phase of maturity. The Tribunal’s caseload and burden of responsibility were heavy and demanding, but, with the support of the international community, the Tribunal should be able to overcome those difficulties and, thereby, make its contribution to the assertion of justice against the direst crimes and the consolidation of peace in the Great Lakes region.
ARNE HONNINGSTAD (Norway) said the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had recently confirmed the first-ever conviction of a head of government for the crime of genocide, that of the former Rwandan Prime Minister, Jean Kambanda. Precedent-setting cases of this kind represented important building blocks in international jurisprudence, with regard to the prosecution of the most serious international crimes. The experience obtained by the Rwanda Tribunal was also a stepping-stone towards the establishment of the International Criminal Court.
He said Norway had previously expressed concern about the administrative difficulties at the Tribunal, and had followed with great attention efforts to improve the working conditions in Arusha and Kigali. Over the last year, significant progress had been made. Among noteworthy reforms to enhance judicial support services to the chambers was the automation of the judicial records, in particular, and court management services, in general. Those and other changes should contribute to an effective handling of cases, without reducing in any way the procedural rights of either the accused or of any other parties to the process.
Norway remained a strong supporter of the Tribunal, he went on, and it appealed to other States to take all the legislative steps necessary to ensure effective cooperation with it. Besides legislation and compliance with the Tribunal’s requests for assistance, concrete support to the Tribunal should be shown through financial and material contributions. The Tribunal deserved political, practical and financial support. The Norwegian Government had declared its willingness to consider applications from the Tribunal concerning the enforcement of sentences and, subsequently, in conformity with Norway’s national law, to receive a limited number of convicted persons to serve their time in Norway. That was critical to the functioning of the Tribunal, and Norway encouraged more States to prove their commitment through similar action.
DAUDI N. MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said the fifth annual report of the Tribunal was a source of increasing encouragement regarding its mandate and work, and it was satisfactory that the pace of judicial activities continued to increase.
He said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” It was, therefore, a matter of concern that the large volume of motions and interlocutory appeals significantly contributed to the delay in the commencement of trials. He applauded the decisions of the seventh and eighth plenary sessions which had amended several rules of the Tribunal, with a view to expediting and shortening trials. He also supported the Tribunal’s undertaking to improve the management of the funds allocated to the legal aid programme.
He said, as a host to the Tribunal, the United Republic of Tanzania was especially sensitive to its role in the process of rendering justice and promoting national reconciliation and healing in Rwanda. His country had dedicated itself to supporting and strengthening its cooperation with the Tribunal, which had turned a new page in the last few years. What had been achieved should be a strong framework in the Tribunal’s efforts at rendering justice.
CLIFFORD S. MAMBA (Swaziland) said that the three judgements recently rendered by the Tribunal demonstrated its will to continue to build upon its record. They would have a significant impact on the development of international humanitarian law. That was reflected in the Tribunal’s decision in the Akayesu Case, which involved interpreting and applying the 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Further, the Tribunal’s experience and contribution in international criminal justice would also have a positive impact towards efforts at establishing the International Criminal Court.
He said the Tribunal’s achievements so far provided a clear indication that it was finally coming to grips with the practical expectations of the international community. Swaziland was confident that, in time, the Tribunal would overcome the many challenges it continued to face, both in terms of caseload and management. With the addition of the third trial chamber, as well as the increase in the number of judges, the backlog of cases would be handled in a more speedy fashion. His country was grateful that the Tribunal, through its witness and victims support section, had intensified its monitoring activities in the countries of residence of the witnesses, especially in improving their psychological rehabilitation. In so doing, it had successfully enlarged the network of countries willing to cooperate with the Tribunal in the area of witness management.
Further cooperation was needed, he continued, to ensure that the Secretary-General’s appeal to Member States to provide prisons for the incarceration of persons convicted by the Tribunal was met. Swaziland had become the third country to cooperate in that respect. He said valuable assistance continued to be given to the Tribunal, through contributions by a number of States to its voluntary trust fund. With the cooperation of the international community, the proceedings of the Tribunal would be accelerated and it would be reasonably possible for it to conclude its work within the period of its mandate.
PHAKISO MOCHOCHOKO (Lesotho) said that by establishing the two ad hoc Tribunals, for Yugoslavia in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994, the Security Council had ushered in a new doctrine in defence of humanitarian values. The doctrine of “world order” entailed not only political stability and general economic well-being, but democratic government, ethic harmony and, above all, respect for human rights. The alternative for the international community, having abandoned the people of Rwanda in their time of need by failing to stop the genocide, was to show its indignation to what happened by setting in motion a process for investigating, prosecuting and punishing those responsible for the genocide. The international community, thus, bore the responsibility for the Tribunal’s continued effectiveness, if it was to succeed in the mission entrusted to it by the Security Council.
The Tribunal had worked to overcome its teething problems and fulfil its mandate. The impact of the Tribunal’s achievements in the early establishment of a permanent international criminal court, and the contribution of the two bodies to the jurisprudence of international criminal, law could not be overstated. Those positive developments, however, should not lead to complacency. He said the people of Rwanda deserved no less than speedy, but fair and effective, trials of all those indicted before the Tribunal. Inordinate delays in finalizing trials, most of which could be attributed to the obstructive and dilatory tactics employed to frustrate the Tribunal’s efforts, should be a matter of concern for all. That apparent abuse of the court process could not be allowed to continue.
As the Tribunal intensified its efforts to finalize trial of those indicted and arrested, the focus of States’ cooperation would have to shift from assisting in tracking, arresting and transporting indictees, to assistance with the incarceration of convicted persons. Lesotho expressed the hope that many more African countries would rise to the challenge of helping the Tribunal implement its policy that sentences should, as far as possible, be served in Africa.
ALBERTUS JACOBUS HOFFMANN (South Africa) welcomed the fifth annual report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. His Government was certain that the establishment of the Tribunal would assist the people of Rwanda in reconstructing their country, rebuilding their communities and helping the healing process of all Rwandans, "both the victims of the most grotesque genocide of our time, as well as those guilty of that most heinous crime". South Africa was pleased with the success that the Tribunal had achieved in its six years, including the seven judgements that were the first ever for the crime of genocide by any international court, and also the first conviction and sentencing of a head of government for the crime of genocide.
He took note of the Prosecutor's new strategy of joint trials of individuals accused of involvement in the same offences, and hoped that the new approach would assist the Tribunal in discharging its heavy caseload. In addition, many of the administrative and logistical difficulties, which in the past had been cited as hindering progress in finalizing trials, were being addressed. His country had supported the Tribunal by arresting and surrendering an individual indicted by the Tribunal in 1999. Moreover, it was currently investigating the possibility of making available prison facilities for the incarceration of persons convicted by the Tribunal.
It was a positive development that relations between the Tribunal and Rwanda had improved significantly over the past three years. The recent inauguration of the ICTR Information and Documentation Centre in Kigali would enhance awareness and support for the judgements of the Tribunal inside Rwanda, he said. It was hoped that those initiatives would contribute to national reconciliation in Rwanda by bringing home to its people the international community's commitment to render justice for the genocide of 1994. In closing, in the words of South African President Thabo Mbeki, "the Rwanda experience should teach each and every one of us to work towards unity, to take individual and collective responsibility for building the kind of future which all our people on the continent need".
JOSEPH W. MUTABOBA (Rwanda) discussed the five reasons his Government had requested and firmly supported the establishment of an International Tribunal: to involve the international community, which had also been harmed by the genocide, notably the grave and massive violations of international humanitarian law; to appeal for an international presence to avert any suspicion of an intent to organize speedy and vengeful justice; to apprehend those criminals who had found refuge in different countries; because the genocide committed in Rwanda was a crime against humanity and should be punished by the international community as a whole; and to help national reconciliation and the shaping of a new society based on social justice and respect for fundamental human rights.
In evaluating the performance of the Tribunal, the Government of Rwanda believed it was most important for the Tribunal to improve its pace and register more successes. There should be no more leniency to those who intended to paralyse the process of justice in the Tribunal, for whatever reasons. Stricter rules should be put in place to prevent that trend. He called for more chambers and more judges, and encouraged joint arrangements where several suspects could be judged together. The need to speed up trials would show that "genocide was a result of conspiracy rather than mere individual acts”.
His country favoured the idea of victims-oriented justice, which had been recognized in the statute of the permanent International Criminal Court through the provision of a trust fund for victims. However, he could not accept that the Tribunal had spent more than $500,000 from its regular budget on defence council services for one detainee alone, whose case was now on appeal. Unfortunately, a proposal to provide modest financial support to five non-governmental organizations for the provision of legal, psychological, medical and limited rehabilitation services to traumatized and endangered witnesses and potential witnesses, in order to facilitate the judicial work of the Tribunal, had been subjected to unfounded debates. In closing, Rwanda wished to acknowledge the improved performance of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and looked forward to a better performance in the near future.
JOEL W. ADECHI (Benin) said that his Government wished to express appreciation for the work done by the Tribunal and the role it had played in the emergence of international jurisprudence. As the first international jurisdiction to have condemned the crime of genocide, the Tribunal had also contributed to solving the problem of impunity and promoting the rule of law. The jurisprudence it had established would have positive impact on the socio-political development of the African continent. Benin welcomed the improvements in the management of the Tribunal, particularly the reduction in delays in judiciary procedures. It called on all States to provide support to the Tribunal.
Benin had signed an agreement whereby persons condemned by the Tribunal could also be taken to penitentiaries in Benin to serve their sentences. Benin encouraged the Tribunal to further improve its relations with Rwanda in order to facilitate the process of national reconciliation. It was encouraging, he said, to see the opening of an information and documentation centre in Kigali which could give greater visibility to the Tribunal. His country welcomed the initiative to give assistance to victims and witnesses, particularly women who had been victims of sexual violence during the genocide.
LARRY CARP (United States) said his country shared the view of those who would like to see the Tribunal achieving speedier results. However, one must recognize that the Tribunal’s task was uniquely demanding and that the Tribunal was striving to meet the challenges facing it. He was concerned about reports noting less than outstanding management, but was encouraged by reported improvements. He was troubled by the number of resignations in the Office of the Prosecutor.
He noted that the Tribunal was aware of the need to expedite its work and to install greater efficiency. He applauded those efforts and urged the Tribunal to seek ways and means of expediting its work so that delays were minimized and costs contained. He complimented the President of the Tribunal for her outstanding leadership.
ARTHUR C.I MBANEFO (Nigeria) said that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was a key institution in the development of a new and major dimension of international relations -– international criminal justice. The establishment of the court in 1994 was a robust response by the international community to violations of civilized standards of morality in the conduct of human affairs. Succinctly put, the essence of its establishment was to dethrone impunity in Rwandan society and replace it with accountability. He noted with satisfaction the number of cases disposed of by the Tribunal. It had rendered seven judgements, including the confirmation by its Appeals Chamber, of the conviction and sentence of life imprisonment of former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, for genocide and crimes against humanity.
He also appreciated efforts made by the judges of the Tribunal to expedite trials and to overcome its initial administrative and operational problems, he said. Administrative reforms and innovations had improved the management of the Tribunal, resulting in the effectiveness of the judicial support functions. He also commended the Registrar for initiatives that had made the Tribunal and its work better known, more relevant and widely appreciated in Rwanda, as well as in other neighbouring countries. Those initiatives included the Tribunal’s Outreach Programme to Rwanda and the Support Programme for Witnesses and Potential Witnesses, whereby the Tribunal provided support to non-governmental organizations that were giving legal and psychological counselling and limited medical and rehabilitation assistance to witnesses, particularly those who were victims of sexual violence.
Nigeria believed that the Tribunal was an important contribution towards the restoration of peace and stability in the Central African subregion, in particular, and in the Africa Continent, in general. The International Criminal Court, when it came into existence, would, no doubt, benefit from the enormous judicial literature, especially in the area of precedents, already accumulated by the Tribunal.
International Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia
The Assembly then turned to the seventh annual report of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
Judge CLAUDE JORDA, President of the Tribunal, in introducing the report, said that, last February, Croatia had elected a new Government, demonstrating their resolve to break with the years of war. A few weeks ago, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia elected a new president, bringing to an end the reign of the indicted President Milosevic. That country had resumed its seat in the Assembly. As a result, he said, it could be hoped that the Balkan States would fully respect their international commitments and cooperate in the Tribunal’s mission. The hope of prosecuting indicted high-ranking military and civil officials who were under indictment had never been so high.
He said the Tribunal was faced with an unprecedented workload. In addition to investigations already being conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia, the prosecutor had added investigations of crimes in Kosovo, for which it had interviewed some 3,000 people and performed numerous exhumations. The Trial Chambers were sitting in continuous session. The Appeals Chamber had passed on three judgements and over 15 interlocutory appeals.
He said the workload continued to grow. Of 65 persons indicted, 38 had been apprehended. Their trials would not be completed before the year 2007. The figures did not take into account estimates of further cases. If there were no reform of the Rules of Procedure, and the organization remained identical, the Tribunal’s mission would be finished in 2016. That situation was unacceptable. Detainees should not be deprived of their freedom for several years before their fate was decided upon.
He said implementation of the recommendations of the expert group had begun. A thorough rethinking of the Tribunal’s structure and operational methods was necessary. Conducting trials away in the field, for instance, in the Balkans, would bring the Tribunal closer to the local populations, but the approach was premature from a political point of view. Procedures had to be expedited without infringing upon current organization. One of the solutions, he suggested, would be to increase the Tribunal’s trial capacity by appointing ad litem judges. The required amendment to the Tribunal’s Statute was already under review. However, that solution would be effective only with internal reforms and additional resources.
He stressed that the Tribunal, an ad hoc institution, should reach its goal within the shortest time; testimony could become too vague to reach judgement. It was, after all, already 10 years since the crimes had been committed. He said he was aware of the fact that the mission had to have an end; working methods must be rationalized, and operations and structures reformed. He would propose further measures to allow the Tribunal’s three organs to set their longer-term priorities, and cooperate more closely to meet them as soon as possible.
The Tribunal was at the same time independent of, and dependent on, States. Assurances of neutrality had to be provided. The Tribunal did not have its own police force, which demonstrated the dependence on the support of States. The position of the Tribunal had greatly improved over the last years, as the result of increased cooperation among all States and, in particular, from States in the Balkans. However, he added, the progress must not allow it to be forgotten that the highest-ranking indicted military and civil officials remained at large. He appealed to all States to ensure that all accused were arrested and brought before the Tribunal.
Mr. ALABRUNE (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the creation of the Tribunal in 1993 had marked decisive progress in efforts to put an end to the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the most serious crimes against international humanitarian law. Expectations at the time were high, but everyone realized that the task would not be easy. The new report of the Tribunal bore witness to the its unremitting efforts to live up to those expectations. The European Union welcomed the progress achieved so far and encouraged the Tribunal to keep moving forward, taking particularly into account the report of the group of experts transmitted to the Secretary-General one year ago. The efficacy and swiftness of the Tribunal were essential both for protecting the rights of the accused and for bolstering the trust placed in the Tribunal.
However, he said, many suspects remained at large, or continued to exercise responsibilities in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. The European Union reiterated its call on all States and entities concerned to comply with their obligation to cooperate with the Tribunal. That call was, in particular, addressed to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The European Union was encouraged by the recent decision to open an office of the Tribunal in Belgrade. He also noted with satisfaction the advent of a better climate of cooperation with Croatia.
The Union paid close attention to the protection of witnesses and victims appearing before the Tribunal, and welcomed the witness-support programme and the provision of counseling and support services for witnesses. It was essential for the Tribunal’s smooth running that witnesses should feel safe during their appearance, and should be shielded after their testimony from possible attempts at revenge by the accused. It was also important that the position of victims should be recognized in the Tribunal proceedings.
The Tribunal could not operate satisfactorily unless it possessed the means of detention. States’ assistance was requested in that regard. The European Union reasserted its backing for the programme of news and dissemination of knowledge of the Tribunal’s activities and the publication of documents giving information on the Tribunal’s work. It was necessary to restate the pioneering role of the Tribunal in consolidating the demand for compliance with the most elementary rules of international humanitarian law. The Tribunal had contributed, along with the ICTR, to the work that had culminated in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Tribunal deserved support and active cooperation from all governments.
IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had not succeeded in all of its objectives. The massacre in Srebrenica and the follow-on scenes of crimes in Kosovo had happened long after its establishment. Guilt had only been individualized to some extent, and the flagrant disregard for the Tribunal by the Milosevic regime and Bosnian Serb authorities had contributed to a perception of collective guilt. However, shortcomings could also be attributed to the lack of international support and determination in bringing war criminals to justice. The recent political changes that had occurred in the region, however, had opened up new opportunities for the fulfilment of the Tribunal’s goals and purposes.
So far, the lack of cooperation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnian Serbs, as well as the lack of efficient international enforcement mechanisms, had put countries and governments which were cooperating with the Tribunal in an embarrassing position, and it had paradoxically exposed them to negative publicity. Rather than highlighting the fact that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had rejected cooperation with the Tribunal, the media had featured the faces and crimes of the Croats and Bosnians who had been transferred to The Hague by their own authorities. That imbalance had distorted the overall perception of the crimes committed and, thereby, prevented the establishment of a reliable historical account. The roots of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s aggression in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and incitement of the Croatian and Bosnian Serbs, had not been established as a framework in which a number of individual war crimes had been perpetrated by all ethnic groups. The same defective account applied to establishing a clear difference between State-sponsored war crimes and acts committed by individuals. There was no excuse that, after seven years of its existence, the Tribunal had not issued an indictment against Milosevic for crimes against humanity and genocide in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There was an increasing awareness that every war crime should be punished, and in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina trials of the respective perpetrators of their “own” crimes had been instigated. After the overthrow of Milosevic, the punishment of war criminals through cooperation with the Tribunal was a challenge for the new government. It was a difficult task, in which international support and determination were needed. Unless the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia extradited war criminals, it would continue to be associated with the crimes committed by them. How then, to proceed? An improved security situation in South-east Europe and the amount of resources required for the operation of the Tribunal made it plausible to consider an “exit strategy”. That, however, should not be done at the expense of achievement of the major Tribunal objectives. The key for success or failure of the Tribunal was bringing Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic to justice, and that should be its first priority.
Croatia supported the proposals by the President of the Tribunal regarding amendment of the Statute, and was particularly pleased by the conclusion that all persons who had been wrongfully detained, prosecuted or convicted had the right to compensation, and that the victims had the right in law to compensation for the injuries they had suffered. If those proposals were accepted by the Security Council, the injustice caused to those persons by an omission from the current Tribunal Statute would be rectified.
Mr. HONNINGSTAD (Norway) said he was confident that the Tribunal would contribute to the long-term process of peace and reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia. He considered that combating impunity was crucial for long-term peace and reconciliation in the area. The existence of a “watchdog” in the form of an international tribunal had become a widely recognized element for maintaining international peace and security and for rebuilding civil society under the rule of law. The experience obtained so far through the work of the Tribunal was also a stepping-stone towards the establishment of the International Criminal Court.
While he recognized the achievements of the Tribunal, the main perpetrators of atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia still enjoyed their freedom with a semblance of impunity. The international community must not waiver in its long-term commitment to the fulfilment of the mandate of the Yugoslavia Tribunal. No one must gamble on impunity for acts of genocide, other crimes against humanity or serious war crimes. The Tribunal was an important element in preventing the recurrence of conflicts. It was critical to the success of the Tribunal that the population of the region should be informed about its work and its importance, he said, in activities such as the Outreach Programme. As a token of Norwegian support to the Tribunal’s activities, the Norwegian Prime Minister had announced during his visit last week a contribution of $30,000 to the Tribunal’s voluntary trust fund, part of which would be earmarked for the Outreach Programme.
The length of the proceedings was of concern to Norway. That was a real dilemma, as the need to guarantee fairness often conflicted with the need to ensure speedy justice. Proposals for how to speed up cases before the Tribunal, without affecting the procedural rights either of the accused or of any other parties, must be seriously considered.
SEYED MOHAMMED HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said the United Nations decision to establish an International Tribunal for the prosecution of persons committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the territory of the former Yugoslavia still had the unreserved support of the international community. That showed the conviction of the community of nations that everlasting peace in the Balkans would be achieved with justice. The report before the Assembly suggested that cooperation between States and the Tribunal had improved greatly in the past year.
In his letter to the Secretary-General, the President of the Tribunal had assessed the current situation regarding the conduct of trials before the Tribunal. If the Tribunal maintained its current structure, it might remain operational until the year 2016 in order to complete the trial of those currently at different stages of proceedings, and those expected to be brought before the Tribunal at later stages. The representative of Iran said he was aware that the Security Council had already established a working group to examine the proposals. The success of the Tribunal in fulfilling its mandate would help in promoting the rule of law, and deterring the repetition of egregious crimes by man against man. It was indispensable that the United Nations, as the founder of the Tribunal, and the Security Council in particular, should vigorously support the Tribunal, providing it with all necessary means so that it could fully accomplish its important mission. He hoped the experience of the Tribunal would help bring to justice the perpetrators of similar crimes committed elsewhere.
He said crimes committed by the occupying Power against the civilian population of Palestine in the occupied territories, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, were no less appalling than those committed in the Balkans.
TEOMAN UYKUR (Turkey) pointed out that ending a conflict and human suffering, and then achieving peace without sacrificing justice, was one of the most fundamental objectives of humanity. But while the conclusion of peace agreements might stop those brutal acts, curing the trauma caused by violence and preventing it from breeding further atrocities was not an easy task. Turkey considered that bringing to justice those responsible for blatant acts of violence against helpless people was one step the international community should take in order to prove that violence could not count on impunity. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was one institution established for that purpose.
His Government regarded the support of the international community, especially the cooperation of individual States with the Tribunal, as an issue of pivotal importance. He called upon all States to cooperate with the Tribunal by every means, making available all relevant data and information concerning the trials; seizing evidence; apprehending indictees and transferring them to the Tribunal; freezing the assets of the accused within their territories; and enforcing the sentences. Turkey believed the harbouring of those criminals was in itself an act of complicity.
At the fall of Srebrenica, which was the subject of an extensive report by the Secretary-General, a brutal ethnic cleansing had occurred, resulting in the murder of thousands in five days. His country was dismayed by the fact that the military and political leaders responsible for grave violations of humanitarian law and acts of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo remained free. Turkey encouraged the cooperation of the countries in the region in detaining the perpetrators. “It would be inadmissible to see any kind of deal with the perpetrators of these violent acts, and withdraw the indictments, for political gains,” he said. Justice was not a subject for negotiation, and Turkey was pleased that the Tribunal had, so far, continued to hold to that approach. He expected the Tribunal to help usher in a new era, in which parties to conflict would no longer feel the urge to demonize each other.
VLADIMIR Y. TARABRIN (Russian Federation) said his country shared the opinion that this was a turning point for the Tribunal, whose credibility and international support were at stake. The Tribunal had played an important role in settling the Yugoslav crisis. However, from the beginning it had been unable to avoid politicization and bipartisanship, particularly in its anti-Serbian attitudes. Most of those accused were Serbs, and eyes were closed to crimes committed by other parties to the conflict. The prosecutors had often gone beyond the jurisdiction of the Tribunal and trespassed on Security Council territory. Even with regard to the NATO bombing of Kosovo, and even when faced with obvious facts, there had been no investigation of NATO’s errors over Kosovo. He said that each fact should have been exhaustively investigated.
He expressed concern that the activities of the Tribunal were a threat to the integrity of international law. The Tribunal did not only use existing norms of international law, but also corrected norms as it saw fit. The Russian Federation opposed the practice of prosecutors preparing sealed indictments with a view to hunting down supposed criminals. It was well known that in the midst of that hunt, NATO troops had infringed on the territorial sovereignty of States. Furthermore, the financing and staffing of those activities by the international community undermined the impartiality and credibility of the Tribunal. Its budget was excessive and its staff inflated. That seemed disproportionate when considering the relatively small budget of the International Court. It was essential to streamline the cost of the Tribunal, he said.
He expressed concern over the duration of the Tribunal’s work and the estimated 15-20 years required for the finalization of that work. He commended the report of the Group of Experts, particularly the suggestion of using senior judges and a pool of judges.
Mr. CARP (United States) thanked Judge Jorda for his report. His country did not share the view that the Tribunal had been unduly politicized or that it was anti Serbian. One should be careful not to judge as biased institutions that were clearly impartial. The situation in Belgrade had improved immeasurably and was a source of great relief. That did not mean that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia did not continue to have a vital raison d’être. Good work had been done and remained to be done. No institution was perfect, but the Tribunal deserved respect and gratitude. He was pleased to note that the Tribunal was seeking ways to improve its functions and expected that the Tribunal would remain vigilant about cost-saving matters. The United States would encourage the Security Council to respond positively to proposals for changes to the Statute.
Right of reply
CHAIM SHACHAM (Israel), exercising his right of reply, said that the delegate of Iran had unfortunately used the debate on this serious issue to charge his country with criminal activity. The charge that Israel had used excessive force was the opposite of truth. Virtually every day during the last month, Israeli soldiers and civilians had been faced with organized and violent attacks by Palestinians, including shootings at residential neighbourhoods, car bombs and violent riots. Under those circumstances, the Israel Defence Force had been acting with utmost restraint. Israel had no interest in escalating violence. It was imperative that the Palestinians stop the violence and that both parties return to the negotiation table. At the same time, the Israel Defence Force had a responsibility to protect Israeli citizens and security personnel. His country regretted the death of all people, whether Jewish or Arab, but responsibility for those deaths rested with the Palestinians. He pointed to the event of this morning, when the Palestinian bombing of a school bus had killed two and wounded 10, mostly children.
Discrimination against and oppression of religious minorities was a violation of international law. Singling out Jews for prosecution had become a common practice in Iran. The “deplorable” Iranian incarceration of 13 of its Jewish citizens on trumped-up espionage charges was a case in point. His Government expressed shock and concern following the harsh sentences passed on the Jewish prisoners, who were innocent of any wrongdoing. The almost two years of imprisonment which the Iranian Jews already had suffered constituted a grave injustice and a gross violation of human rights. He reiterated Israel’s call upon the international community to continue to work together with Israel and to do its utmost to bring about the prompt release of the prisoners. His country would not rest until all prisoners were released.
SAEID MIRZAEE-YENGEJEH (Iran) pointed out that the atrocities committed by the occupiers in the occupied territories of the Middle East warranted the plea for an international tribunal. The feelings of the international community in respect of Israeli atrocities was reflected in various resolutions, for example, paragraphs 2 and 6 of the resolution adopted by the tenth emergency special session. Paragraph 2 of that resolution condemned acts of violence, especially excessive use of force against Palestinians. Paragraph 6 said that Israel should abide by its legal obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 1322 condemned acts of violence, especially the excessive use of force against Palestinians. Paragraph 3 called upon Israel to abide by its legal responsibilities. It was in light of the feelings of the international community that the representative of Iran had proposed that an international criminal tribunal should be set up to prosecute the criminals in the occupied territories.
Mr. SHACHAM (Israel), speaking in a second exercise of his right of reply, said that the humanitarian provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 were being applied de facto to the West Bank and Gaza Strip territories. That was despite the fact that pursuant to article 2 of the Convention, its provisions applied de jure only to territory which had been occupied from a legitimate sovereign. As neither the West Bank nor the Gaza Strip were under the recognized sovereignty of a State prior to 1967, the Geneva Conventions did not, as a matter of law, apply to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Indeed, the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians did not refer to this territory as “occupied territory”, and recognized that the West Bank and Gaza Strip were properly to be regarded as disputed territory which was the subject of direct bilateral negotiations between the parties.
Therefore, even according to those who argued that the Geneva Conventions applied de jure to the West Bank and Gaza Strip territories, that could surely not be the case in Palestinian cities and towns where, according to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, a vast degree of governmental powers had been transferred to the elected Palestinian Authority.
The Assembly then decided to conclude consideration of the item.
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