News 23 Jun 17

Hague Tribunal Shares Lessons of War Crime Probes

Prosecutors from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia told a conference in Sarajevo about how they developed investigations into war crimes perpetrators and those who commanded them.

Emina Dizdarevic
The Hague Tribunal legacy conference in Sarajevo. Photo: BIRN.

The chief of operations at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Robert Reid, told the panel discussion in the Bosnian capital on Friday that amassing evidence was the key to successful cases at the UN court in The Hague.

“The question is, how did we open investigations? The answer is simple. We went to wherever evidence led us,” Reid said.

Prosecutor Alan Tieger said that it was important to obtain evidence about the goals of those who were alleged to have command responsibility for crimes and to associate the direct perpetrators with those in command who were far away from the crime scenes.

“The goals could be discovered through the logic of statements given by leading officials at the time, particularly when one could hear bragging about something, instead of punishing [crimes],” Tieger said.

The senior prosecution representative in first-instance trials, Kweku Vanderpuye, spoke about the importance of DNA evidence, saying it was vital to retain it.

“Even if it cannot be used today, it can be used in the future. It is therefore necessary to keep DNA evidence,” Vanderpuye explained.

Speaking about the legacy of the Hague Tribunal, chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said the UN court’s database contained more than nine million pages, to which prosecutions in the former Yugoslavia have access.

Brammertz said that domestic prosecutions had already used more than 120,000 pages from the Hague database.

Meanwhile acting Bosnian chief prosecutor Gordana Tadic presented data from the Bosnian state prosecution’s own database, which indicates that there are currently 642 ongoing cases in which perpetrators have been identified, 612 cases against unknown perpetrators and 1,669 cases covering a particular event.

“Besides that, there are more than 300 most complex war-crime cases,” Tadic said.

In addition to its own database, Tadic said the Bosnian state prosecution also used the Hague Tribunal’s database on a daily basis.

The prosecutors were speaking at a conference on the legacy of the UN tribunal.

The tribunal will officially close its doors at the end of this year after it has pronounced verdicts in the cases against former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic and six former Bosnia Croat officials.

The remaining cases that were before the tribunal, including the appeal in the case of former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, have been taken over by the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague.

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