News 07 Dec 17

Hague Tribunal Declares ‘Mission Accomplished’

The president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which closes this month, told the UN Security Council that the court had “forever changed the landscape of international justice”.

Hague Tribunal president Carmel Agius. Photo: ICTY.

Carmel Agius, the president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, told the Security Council in New York on Wednesday that the UN court’s mission had been accomplished with its final two verdicts last month.

Agius said that the verdicts in the cases against former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic and six wartime Bosnian Croat officials, including military leader Slobodan Praljak, were “points of no return, which forever changed the landscape of international justice”.

“In retrospect… the establishment of the ICTY [in 1993] was one of the international community’s proudest moments,” Agius said.

The ICTY shuts down on December 31 this year and its remaining work, including the appeal in the Mladic case, will be completed by the Mechanism for International Tribunals.

Agius said that the challenges and difficulties faced by the ICTY should “in no way lead one to conclude that to resort to international criminal tribunals is not worth it”.

In its most recent controversy, Slobodan Praljak swallowed poison in the courtroom after hearing his sentence and died within hours. An investigation into his death, and how he got access to the poison, is underway.

Agius said that international criminal justice would always be time-consuming and expensive, but “to live with the alternative of doing nothing and giving in to impunity is to pay a much, much higher price”.

He admitted however that while the ICTY’s supporters see it as having played an important role in the struggle against impunity, its detractors would continue to denounce it “for reasons of political or personal gain, blind nationalism and ethnic hatred”.

ICTY chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz told the Security Council meanwhile that there was still an absence of genuine reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia, where “convicted war criminal continue to be seen by many as heroes, while victims and survivors are ignored and dismissed”.

“There is still no true will within the region to accept the immense wrongdoings of the past and move forward, sadly most of all among the political leadership,” Brammertz said.

He argued that as a result of the ICTY’s work “so many victims and survivors received some measure of justice for the immense wrongs they suffered”.

“Our results show that if there is a clear political agenda in favour of accountability, and if the international community speaks with one voice, those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law can be held accountable for their crimes,” he said.

Brammertz also argued however that much more remains to be done after the closure of the ICTY to ensure the guilty are held accountable for their crimes.

“Many victims, from all communities, are still waiting for justice,” he said.

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