News 10 Apr 13

Serbia Musters For UN War Crimes Debate

Ahead of a UN debate on war crime tribunals, Serbia has again asked the UN to allow Serbs convicted by the Hague Tribunal to serve their sentences in Serbia.

Marija Ristic

On the eve of a UN debate supported by Serbia, the country's Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, has asked the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to allow Serbs jailed by the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, to serve sentences in Serbia.

Serbia can vouch for the security of the prisoners and can agree on locations where such prisoners could be held, he added.

"Serbia is ready to accept international monitoring and offer firm guarantees that the convicts will not be given early release without the permission of the Tribunal," Dacic said in his letter.

Serbia has previously tried to negotiate with the ICTY so that Serbs convicted of war crimes could return to Serbia to serve sentences.

The current policy of the ICTY does not allow defendants to serve their sentences in any of the countries of former Yugoslavia.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic recently said that if the ICTY allowed Serbs to serve their sentences at home, Serbia would support cancelling a UN debate on the subject of war-crime tribunals scheduled for April 10.

The debate has been called by the Serbian president of the UN General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic.

As the offer drew no response, Nikolic will be among the first to speak at the debate, right after Jeremic and Ban Ki-moon.

However, Nikolic will be the only head of state present at the debate. All other countries are sending diplomats of a lower level. No one from the ICTY will be present.

“The President of Serbia will file serious analysis of about 42 pages, which will stay in the archives of the UN and by which he will prove that forming the ICTY was not in line with the law,” Oliver Antic, advisor to the President, said to local media.

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.

Jeremic reportedly chose April 10 as the date for the debate as it coincides with the 72nd anniversary of the foundation of a puppet Fascist government in Croatia.

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

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.

According to Jeremic, 82 speakers will participate in the debate, while the US, Jordan and Canada will boycott the event.

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