UN war crimes courts call for greater efforts to seize indicted ringleaders

3 December 2009 – Top officials of the United Nations war crimes tribunals today called for Serbia’s “critical” cooperation in capturing the two remaining top fugitives accused of atrocities in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and denounced Kenya for failing to cooperate in the case of a major suspect in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

“The arrest of Ratko Mladic [Bosnian Serb military chief in Bosnia and Herzegovina] and the other remaining fugitive [Serb politician] Goran Hadžic remains one of my office’s foremost priorities,” International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Prosecutor Serge Brammertz told the Security Council, noting progress in Serbia’s cooperation in providing more effective access to documents.

But, he added in a regular six-monthly briefing, “The most critical aspect of Serbia’s cooperation is the need to apprehend the fugitives… Serbia must maintain these efforts [tracking operations] with the clear objective of apprehending the fugitives.”

Mr. Mladic faces numerous charges, including genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions, deportation, taking of hostages and inflicting terror on civilians, particularly in connection with massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the supposedly “safe haven” of Srebrenica in July 1995 in one of the most notorious events of the Balkan wars.

Mr. Hadžic is charged with murder, persecutions, torture, cruel treatment and other war crimes and crimes against humanity related to his role as president of a self-proclaimed breakaway state of rebel Serbs in southern Croatia during the early 1990s.

The President of the ICTY, Judge Patrick Robinson, also stressed “the major obstacle” presented by the continuing flight of the two. “I urge the Security Council to seek ways to facilitate their immediate arrest,” he said. “If these two men are not brought to justice, it will tarnish the Security Council’s historic contribution to peace-building in the former Yugoslavia.”

Of the other 161 indicted, only one remains in pre-trial stage, 24 are presently on trial in nine cases, and 13 have appeals pending, he reported. Five trials are expected to be completed during 2010, three during 2011, and the remaining case – that of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžic – should be completed in late 2012, with all appeals ended in 2013, apart from Mr. Karadžic’s which is estimated for completion in 2014.

Mr. Robinson also stressed the need to set up a claims commission to compensate victims of the Balkan wars, noting that at present there is no effective mechanism for them to seek redress for their injuries although such a right is firmly rooted in international law. “I would therefore implore you to take official steps to support the establishment of such a claims compensation as a method of complementing the Tribunal’s work,” he said.

The issue of fugitives was also a matter of major concern for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) trying suspected perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by extremist Hutus.

Eleven suspects still remain at large, and court President Dennis Byron praised the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda for “their important contribution to the fight against impunity” by their prompt recent transfer of two alleged ringleaders, Grégoire Ndahimana and Idelphonse Nizeyimana respectively.

But ICTR Prosecutor Hassan Jallow reported “no progress in the matter of cooperation” from Kenya in the case of Félicien Kabuga. “Repeated requests to the Government of Kenya for details of Kabuga’s reported departure from that country have gone unanswered for the past 12 months. This situation should not be allowed to continue,” he said.

“Kenya should be required to comply with its legal obligations under the UN Charter and international law generally to give full cooperation to the ICTR and comply with its requests.”

He voiced confidence that intensified tracking efforts and greater State cooperation might yield positive results in apprehending the remaining 11. But Mr. Byron, while noting “remarkable progress” in the trials over the past 15 years, also stressed the need for greater effort.

“Significant work remains ahead before we can safely say that we have achieved our mandate and prosecuted and tried the principal perpetrators of the horrendous atrocities committed in Rwanda in 1994,” he said.

Twenty countries were participating in the Council debate on the tribunals.


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