Officials from UN war crimes tribunals urge help in arresting fugitives

Security Council

18 June 2007 – Senior officials from United Nations war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia today called for efforts to capture a number of infamous fugitives known to be hiding from justice in different countries.

While observing “general progress” in Serbia’s level of support, Carla Del Ponte, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), told a meeting of the Security Council that she would continue to demand Belgrade’s full cooperation, including full access to documents and the arrest and transfer of fugitives, particularly Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic – suspected architects of mass crimes during the Balkans wars – who she said she believes “are currently in Serbia or within Serbia’s reach.”

“The continuing impunity enjoyed by Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic gravely undermines all efforts to bring justice to the victims,” Ms. Del Ponte told the Council, adding that it also seriously affects the credibility of the Tribunal.

ICTY President Fausto Pocar said the imperative for States to cooperate in the apprehension of the accused has reached a “critical stage.”

He noted that General Zdravko Tolimir, a top aide to General Mladic during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, was apprehended by Bosnian authorities, while Vlastimir Dordevic, a senior Serbian police officer accused of participating in the campaign against Kosovo Albanians in 1999, was arrested in Montenegro just yesterday.

Reaffirming the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s (ICTR) “firm and unwavering” commitment to completing its work on time, Prosecutor Hassan B. Jallow stressed the need to bring remaining indictees to trial, particularly well-known fugitive Felicien Kabuga.

Asserting that the suspect is in Kenya, Justice Jallow called on the Security Council and Member States to “bring their influence to bear on the Government of Kenya for it to live up to its international legal obligations” by arresting Mr. Kabuga and handing him over to face justice at the Tribunal, located in the Tanzanian city of Arusha.

In his first address to the Council as the new President of the Rwanda Tribunal, Dennis Byron emphasized that the purpose of the court’s establishment – to contribute to peace and international justice – will be “seriously impaired” if the remaining indictees are not brought to justice.

“If these fugitives are not arrested and transferred in time for their trials to be completed by the end of 2008, a solution must be discussed that will allow the Tribunal or another mechanism to proceed with such cases beyond the end of 2008,” he stated.

The calls for help in bringing suspects to justice were made as the Council discussed the completion strategies of the courts, with the ICTR expected to wrap up its work by 2009 and the ICTY the following year. Officials from both tribunals said referrals to national courts were critical to meeting the deadline.

Mr. Pocar said the impact of referrals on his court’s overall workload has been “substantial,” noting that ten accused have been transferred for trial to the domestic courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, two to Croatia, and one to Serbia.

To ensure that international norms of due process are observed in those cases, he said it is imperative that domestic jurisdictions in the region receive strong support to strengthen their judicial capacity, including adequate detention facilities.

By prosecuting war crimes cases at the domestic level, Judge Pocar said “it is these courts that will carry on the legacy of the International Tribunal long after it has completed its mission.”

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