ICTY Marks the 20th Anniversary of its Inception

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Managing Editor, News

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Members of the UN Security Council marked last Saturday as the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), created  to prosecute war crimes committed during the Balkan conflict of the 1990’s.

May 25, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia’s inception. (Photo Courtesy of UN News Centre)

Twenty years ago, The ICTY was unanimously established on May 27, 1993 under the UN Security Council’s Resolution 827.  Since then, the international community has provided more than two billion dollars for the tribunal’s continued performance.  The ICTY has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of human rights committed between 1991 and 2001.  Proceedings against 131 people were completed, while 25 others still currently await their sentence.  The tribunal will adjourn for the final time in 2016.

The ICTY sentenced some of the most notorious human rights offenders who were active during the Balkan War, including then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in the ICTY detention center during the trial for his crimes committed in Bosnia – Herzegovina, Croatia, and in Kosovo.

The Security Council recalled the resolution in a statement made to the press last Saturday.  In the statement, the Security Council stated the necessity of passing the resolution, and also recognized “the contribution of the ICTY in the fight against impunity for “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.”

ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz also hailed the achievements of the ICTY.  “One of the achievements is for sure that there are no fugitives at large any more,” said Brammertz.  The court’s president, Judge Theodore Meron, said that the biggest achievement for the ICTY was being able to show that “an international court could deliver justice impartially.”

Meron also shared his criticism of the court when he commented on the efficiency of the court due to the complexity of the crimes.  Referring to the inability to hand a final sentence to Milosevic, who died before the end of his four-year trial, Meron said “I wish we could have gone faster, but I do believe that we have such special problems that if you focus on our cases you see that our progress has been quite reasonable.”  Bosnian war crimes investigator Mirsad Tokaca commenting on the length of trials, said “[i]t is impermissible that the trials should last so long, absolutely impermissible.”

Many Serbs also criticized the court, saying that they were unfairly targeted and form the majority of the suspects.  Yet some Serbs, like former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who was initially convicted by the court of war crimes and later acquitted after a retrial, praised it. “This is the only institution or arbiter that went (through) with it, so if the question is, is it worth that we have it or it would have been better not to have something like that?  I must say it was worthy to have it,” said Haradinaj.

For further information, please see:

CP24 — Mixed Reviews for UN Yugoslav War Crimes Court — 27 May 2013

Euronews — Ex-Yugoslavia War Crimes Tribunal Marks 20 Years of Business — 25 May 2013

UN News Centre — Security Council Recognizes Contribution of UN Yugoslav Tribunal – 25 May 2013

Dalje — ICTY Marks 20th Anniversary Amid Divided Assessments of its Work — 24 May 2013

Author: Ali Al-Bassam

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