News 16 Oct 17

Russian Minister Says Hague Tribunal ‘Should Be Closed’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia should have been shut down long ago because it is biased against Serbs.

Maja Zivanovic

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Photo: Wikimedia/US Department of State.

Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, should have been shut down because it has “proved its bias and one-sidedness”, Russian news outlet Sputnik reported.

“About 80 per cent of the cases there, in my opinion, have been started against the Serbs. Cases that were launched against other nationalities have often failed,” Lavrov said at the World Youth and Student Festival in the Russian city of Sochi.

Lavrov singled out on the former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Ramush Haradinaj, now Kosovo’s prime minister, who was acquitted of war crimes by the ICTY in 2012.

He insisted that Haradinaj should not have been cleared.

“All the invited witnesses were either missing or refused to testify,” he said.

So far the ICTY has convicted 83 people, mostly from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a significant percentage of whom are Bosnian Serbs.

In February 1993, Russia voted for United Nations Security Council resolution 808, which established the international tribunal to try people for war crimes committed during the conflicts in former Yugoslavia.

The ICTY is to close at the end of this year but the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, MICT, will complete its remaining cases.

Russia abstained in the vote in December 2010 on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1966, which decided that the MICT should be established.

This is not the first time that Lavrov has called for the closure of the ICTY.

In April 2016, he described the UN court as “politicised”, again supporting his argument with the example of Haradinaj’s acquittal.

The ICTY was the first war crimes court to be created by the UN and the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals. Over more than two decades, it has heard almost 5,000 witnesses and held around 11,000 trial days.

The ICTY filed indictments against 161 people, most of them high-ranking officials within the state, army or police apparatus.

It will go down in history as the first court to charge an acting head of state with genocide and other crimes, although former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic didn’t live long enough hear his verdict, as he died in 2006 before the end of his trial.

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