UN war crimes tribunals call for more help from Member States in arresting fugitives

Security Council

7 June 2006 – Member States must do more to assist the United Nations war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in bringing perpetrators to justice, the top legal officials from those bodies told the Security Council today, as they highlighted the progress made and challenges remaining to completing their work.

Carla Del Ponte, Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), said that in particular cooperation by Serbia “has been and remains very difficult and frustrating,” adding she remains unconvinced that Serbia is ready to arrest Ratko Mladic who, along with Radovan Karadzic, has been indicted on genocide charges relating to the Balkan wars in the 1990s.

“I want to stress again before the Council that impunity for these two most serious architects of the crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, both accused of genocide, would represent a terrible blow not only to the success or failure of the Tribunal, but to the future of international justice as a whole.”

Ms. Del Ponte also called on the Republika Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina to “increase substantially its efforts to locate and arrest fugitives,” adding that the search for Mr. Karadzic “must intensify rapidly.”

As well as stressing the need for more cooperation from Member States, the Prosecutor said that another priority of her Office was to speed up its proceedings, something that was also highlighted in remarks to the Council made by ICTY President Judge Fausto Pocar.

Judge Pocar said that the trials would run into 2009 but whether they would finish by that date would depend on various factors, including the speed with which the “six remaining high-level fugitives are transferred to the jurisdiction of the International Tribunal.”

The top legal officials from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) voiced similar concerns and priorities in their briefings to the Council, with Prosecutor Hassan B. Jallow highlighting the continuing “challenges in tracking and arresting the 18 indicted fugitives,” and in particular Felicien Kabuga who continues to reside in Kenya.

Mr. Kabuga was indicted for his role in the creation and management of a “hate” radio station and for helping to fund and arm the Interahamwe militias during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

“In my meetings with the African NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in May 2006 some 60 NGOs signed a petition calling upon the Government of the Republic of Kenya to cooperate with the ICTR in tracking, arresting and transferring Felicien Kabuga to the custody of the ICTR,” Mr. Jallow said.

“We continue to emphasize the need for the cooperation of Member States to ensure the arrest of these fugitives and their eventual trial either at ICTR or in countries willing to accept cases on referral from the Tribunal. Unfortunately in the past six months we have not registered any arrest or transfer of a fugitive to the Tribunal.”

ICTR President Judge Erik Møse also stressed the “vital” need for cooperation from Member States in the Tribunal’s work but added that it remains on course to complete the trials of 65 to 70 persons by the end of 2008 as indicated in its Completion Strategy.

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