News 29 Mar 13

Croatian President Shuns Jeremic's UN Debate

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic plans not to participate in the upcoming debate on war crime tribunals organised by the Serbian UN General Assembly President.

Zagreb, Belgrade

“I will neither speak nor attend the debate at the UN General Assembly,” Ivo Josipovic, Croatian President told Belgrade daily Vecernje novosti.

The Croatian authorities have yet to decide whether they will participate nor have they agreed who will represent them at the UN on April 10 when the Serbian president of the UN General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, has scheduled a debate on the role of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, and other war-crime tribunals set by UN.

Jeremic scheduled the debate on "The role of international criminal justice in reconciliation“ after the ICTY acquitted two Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, of war crimes during the conflict in Croatia in 1995.

Croatia applauded the rulings but Serbia denounced the verdict as politically motivated.

Media also reported that Jeremic chose April 10 for the debate as the 72nd anniversary of the foundation of a puppet Fascist government in Croatia.

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

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

However, the United States Foreign Policy magazine writes that "several international legal experts - including Song Sang-Hyun, president of the International Criminal Court - who had confirmed their attendance at the conference, have pulled out of the event.

"Many governments, including the United States and members of the European Union, are now considering sending low-level diplomats to the conference in order to register their displeasure with Jeremic's words," it added.

The magazine noted that among those who cancelled or declined invitations were the president of the Assembly of States Parties for the International Criminal Court, Tina Intelmann; the UN Secretary General's special advisor on genocide, Adama Dieng; the director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth; and the UN Secretary General's lawyer, Patricia O'Brien.

According to media reports, the Serbian government offered to cancel the UN debate in return for the ICTY allowing a Serbian prisoner convicted by the Tribunal to serve his sentence in his home country.

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

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

The head of the Serbian government's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, Rasim Ljajic, said that the idea to serve the sentence in Serbia was four years old but had never received any support. 

"Three months ago, we received the first positive sign from The Hague and the UN, meaning a response that they would soon send a commission to check whether conditions in our prisons matched international standards," Ljajic said.

The ICTY refused to comment on the offer.

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