News 27 Mar 13

Serbia’s Jeremic Pushes for UN Debate on Hague

Vuk Jeremic, Serbian president of the UN General Assembly, says he will keep pressing for a UN debate about the Hague Tribunal which he says could be a forum for “tough criticism”.

Marija Ristic

Jeremic said he would continue to insist on holding the debate at the UN General Assembly on April 10 about the performance of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, which some Belgrade politicians believe is biased against Serbs.

He claimed that there had been pressure for the debate to be cancelled; media reports have suggested that the US, Britain and other Western countries do not want it to go ahead.

“It is not a surprise that pressure to cancel the debate is increasing as we are approaching April 10. But I will repeat one more time, I think this is a very significant topic for international relations and there is no force that can force me to quit,” Jeremic said.

Jeremic scheduled the debate after the ICTY acquitted two Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, of war crimes against Serb civilians during the conflict in Croatia in 1995. In Serbia, the verdict was seen as unjust and politically motivated.

Jeremic argued that the UN, as the founder of ad-hoc courts such as the ICTY, needed to discuss its performance.

“There is a great interest among states in participating in the debate. Maybe now, the criticism of the ICTY will be tougher because they tried to cancel it,” Jeremic told the US bureau of the Tanjug news agency.

Jeremic's office has said that Russia, China, India, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bangladesh, Egypt and South Africa have confirmed they want to participate in the debate.

According to local media reports, the Serbian government tried to bargain with the ICTY, offering to cancel the UN debate in return for the court allowing a Serb prisoner convicted by the Tribunal to serve his sentence in his home country.

According to UN rules, all those convicted by the ICTY cannot serve their sentences in former Yugoslav countries.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic’s office has said that the proposal was rejected by the ICTY and that the Serbian president will speak first in the debate, as previously planned.

The ICTY refused to comment on the offer.

The debate will first hear from state and court representatives about current issues, then historians, victims’ associations, media and legal experts will participate in two panels about justice and reconciliation.

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