Presidents, Prosecutors of Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia Brief Security Council, Prompting Discussion on Completion, Transition, Legacy

SC/11689
10 December 2014
7332nd Meeting (AM)

Presidents, Prosecutors of Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia Brief Security Council, Prompting Discussion on Completion, Transition, Legacy

When the Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda 20 years ago, on the heels of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia the previous year, the landscape of international criminal law was altered forever, members heard today as they reviewed developments.

Reporting on the work of the Rwanda Tribunal, its President Vagn Joensen recalled the events held to pay homage to those who had lost their lives during “the 100 dark days of 1994”.  He noted that the Appeals Chamber had rendered four judgements this year and had concluded appellate proceedings for 55 persons.  Only one case remained incomplete, he said.

Underscoring the importance of sharing the lessons of the last two decades, Hassan B. Jallow, the Prosecutor of that Tribunal, and the International Residual Mechanism for both courts, said that the anniversary had been marked by a Colloquium of International Prosecutors, focusing on local prosecution of international crimes.  The battle against impunity required a strong partnership between international and local justice mechanisms, he said, noting the Tribunal’s work with the Rwandan Government to create an enabling environment.

The Yugoslavia Tribunal was making progress, said Theodor Meron, the President of that body and of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.  Nevertheless, it would not complete its cases by the end of this month, as set out by the Council, owing to various factors such as late arrests, the health conditions of some of the accused, and staff recruitment and retention issues.  But by the end of 2015, judgements in only two cases — one trial and one appeal — would remain outstanding.

Drawing the Council’s attention to the smooth transition of responsibilities to both branches of the Mechanism, Mr. Meron said that it stood ready to adjudicate any appeals from the Yugoslavia Tribunal while also preparing to possibly take on the cases of the three remaining Rwanda Tribunal fugitive indictees.  Still, the question of resettlement of persons who had completed their sentences or been acquitted by the Rwanda Tribunal remained challenging.

His office had completed work in the trial of Radovan Karadžić, Serge Brammertz, the Prosecutor of the Yugoslavia Tribunal informed the Council, noting 165,000 pages of transcripts and documentary evidence.  The judgement was expected in the latter part of next year.  Only two trials remained, and appeals proceedings in five cases.  His office would support accountability efforts in the region, he said, stressing that the Tribunal should be judged, not by the past few years alone, but by its many achievements.

Following the briefings, representatives of the countries concerned took the floor.  The representative of Rwanda lauded the Tribunal for combating crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes, and asked that the archive be handed over to his Government.  Concerning the fugitive indictees, he said his country wanted to see more tangible action.  Rwanda was also frustrated by the delays in court proceedings in France.

Croatia’s representative said that both the accused and the victims were served by a speedy trial while protracted justice proceedings weakened public trust.  Death had prevented the conviction of Slobodan Milošević, who had masterminded the terrible events in the former Yugoslavia, and Vojislav Šešelj, who was responsible for thousands of deaths, had been released with no clear conditions attached.  It was “unacceptable and insulting,” to see him free to continue with inflammatory speeches and scandalous provocations.

Condemning war-mongering rhetoric, Serbia’s representative stated that his country would not accept allegations of collective responsibility and guilt.  Regional destabilization was not in the interest of the Balkan countries and European integration was vital for the region.  Therefore, Serbia had invested much in stabilizing its delicate relations with Croatia.  Further, intensive cooperation between the judicial and police organs of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had led to the arrest of 15 suspects in the 1993 Štrpci killings and abductions case.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s representative also stressed the importance of international cooperation, noting that her country had signed several protocols to enable investigations concerning citizens of other countries.  An estimated 30,000 persons were deemed missing in the aftermath of the Bosnian war and the search involved cooperation between the Government institutions, as well as international and non-governmental organizations.

Also speaking today were representatives of Chile, Lithuania, Republic of Korea, France, Australia, Nigeria, Argentina, United States, Luxembourg, Jordan, China, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and Chad (national capacity).

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 12:52 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to hold its semi-annual debate on the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals.  Before members were the Report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (document S/2014/546); Report of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (document S/2014/556); Letter dated 19 November 2014 from the President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2014/826); Letter dated 19 November 2014 from the President of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991, addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2014/827); and Letter dated 19 November 2014 from the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2014/829).

Briefings

THEODOR MERON, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and of the International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, said that the court continued to make progress in completing its last trials and appeals.  It had delivered two appeal judgements in 2014 and expected to deliver another one — in the large, multi-accused Popović case — by the end of January 2015.  By the end of 2015, judgements in only two cases — one trial and one appeal — would remain outstanding.

Despite the significant progress made, he went on, the Tribunal would not be able to complete all of its judicial cases by the end of this month, as set by the Security Council, because of numerous unforeseen and sometimes challenging circumstances, such as the late arrests of the last indictees, the disqualification of a judge, and the health conditions of a number of accused despite the Tribunal’s best effort to ensure appropriate medical care.  The issue of staff recruitment and retention could also adversely affect the judgement delivery schedule.

At the same time, he noted, the Tribunal was significantly scaling back in size, and by the end of next year, was expected to have drastically cut its staffing levels.  The Tribunal was attempting to retain and replace staff members in the most efficient manner possible.  The procedural issues and requests for assistance — a focus of the reports — should not obscure the bigger picture and the tremendously significant role the Tribunal played into setting global standards for international criminal law and justice and strengthening the rule of law at the local level.  He urged the Council to approve the full extension of judges’ terms as requested in his letters.

Regarding the Mechanism, he said it stood ready to adjudicate any appeals from the four ongoing trials.  Different sections of the Mechanism were preparing rosters to allow rapid staff recruitment and were undertaking other measures to ensure readiness in the event of apprehension of any of the three remaining fugitive indictees on the docket of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, as those cases had not been referred to that country.  Along with that challenge facing the Mechanism was that posed by the persons acquitted by the Rwanda Tribunal and the release of individuals who had completed sentences.  The question of their resettlement was of critical humanitarian concern.  Those challenges should not, however, obscure the real progress achieved in launching both branches of the Mechanism and smoothly transitioning responsibilities according to the Council-mandated timelines.

VAGN JOENSEN, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, noting the twentieth anniversary last month of the court’s establishment, stated that the Appeals Chamber had rendered one judgement in the Bizimungu appeal in June and three additional judgements in September in other cases.  Appellate proceedings had been concluded with respect to 55 persons.  Thus, that Chamber had now completed all of its work with the exception of one case, the appeals of which were scheduled to be heard in April 2015.  In that light, he had recently requested an extension of the terms of office of the Tribunal judges.

Turning to the issue of reparations, he said that the International Organization for Migration had completed a draft Assessment Study to the Government of Rwanda, identifying options and describing how those could be implemented and funded.  Further, the number of the acquitted and convicted released persons still residing in Arusha had decreased from nine to eight, owing to the acceptance of the relocation request submitted by the Registrar to Belgium in July.  Notwithstanding that, and despite numerous Security Council resolutions, efforts by the Tribunal to relocate the remaining persons had been unsuccessful.

The Mechanism’s reliance on the Tribunal for administrative and other services, he noted, had significantly reduced, and the latter continued to assume responsibilities pursuant to Council resolution 1966 (2010).  The monitoring of all Tribunal cases referred to national jurisdictions was fully the responsibility of the Mechanism, and, as of 4 December, the Tribunal had transferred to it more than 1,100 linear metres of records comprising more than 50 per cent of physical records anticipated for transfer.

The decision made two decades ago by the Council to establish the Rwanda Tribunal and a year before that, the Yugoslavia Tribunal, “would forever alter the landscape of international criminal law”, he said.  To pay homage to those who lost their lives during the 100 dark days of 1994, his Tribunal had held events to commemorate the twentieth anniversary.  Representatives from various national and international domestic courts, civil society members, and academics had come from around the world to attend a symposium on the court’s legacy.  On 8 November, an event had been held in Arusha to mark the occasion and to launch the Tribunal’s new website.

SERGE BRAMMERTZ, Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said that during the reporting period, his office had completed work in the trial of Radovan Karadžić, having submitted the final trial brief and presented closing oral arguments.  More than 550 witnesses had testified and over 10,000 exhibits had been submitted, totalling 165,000 pages of transcripts and documentary evidence.  The judgement was expected next just after mid-2015.  Only two trials remained — Mladić and Hadžić, — in which the defence was currently presenting evidence.

Appeals proceedings were ongoing in five cases, he said, adding that the multi-accused Prlić case was a major focus of the Appeals Division’s work during the reporting period.  Convicted at trial, the six accused had submitted 168 grounds of appeal, for which the Appeals Division was preparing responses, in addition to preparing the prosecution’s four grounds of appeal.  However, as events during the reporting period had demonstrated, the ultimate conclusion of trials and appeals was beyond the Office’s control.

In Hadžić, the Prosecution closed its case in October 2013 but proceedings were further delayed by new concerns regarding the health of the individual.  The issuance of the trial judgement in the Šešelj case was delayed again, as the replacement judge had indicated he would require additional time.  The Trial Chamber took the initiative to provisionally release Šešelj under limited conditions.  His disregard of the Tribunal’s orders and insults to victim communities made it necessary for the Office to ask the Trial Chamber to revoke his provisional release, the motion for which was currently pending.

Cooperation between the Tribunal and countries of the former Yugoslavia continued to meet the Office’s expectations, he said, adding that further improvements were needed in relation to national war crimes prosecutions.  While cases continued against low-level perpetrators, greater focus was needed on cases against senior and mid-level suspects.

The Office would continue to support accountability efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other States in the former Yugoslavia through the transfer of information and evidence to national prosecutors, as the Security Council had directed.  The Tribunal’s legacy, though, should not be measured by the past few years alone.  There had been many important achievements in ensuring accountability for crimes committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

HASSAN B. JALLOW, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said that his office had marked the twentieth anniversary of the court’s establishment by hosting a Colloquium of International Prosecutors, in an effort to share lessons learned from the past two decades and to create a forum for consultation between prosecutors dealing with genocide and war crime cases.  The colloquium was focused on local prosecution of international crimes and it recognized the transition from the principle of primacy to that of complementarity.

Local jurisdictions, he said, were increasingly willing to prosecute international crimes.  That was a welcome sign because the struggle against impunity required a very strong partnership between international and local justice mechanisms.  The Tribunal’s experience working closely with the Government of Rwanda to create the necessary enabling environment had illustrated both the challenges that countries faced as they picked up the baton in the fight against impunity and possible solutions.  It was vital to support the acquisition of requisite skills, training and expertise and the creation of the legal and political framework that local jurisdictions needed.  The participants of the colloquium had adopted a resolution outlining the role that States and the international community could play in support of national efforts.

Much of his office’s workload, he added, had been concluded in the past six months, with final judgements in several cases.  A staff retention exercise had identified an appropriate level of staff for seeing the last appeal to its end.  In the months ahead, the Office would focus on the remaining case, the archiving of records, the writing of the genocide narrative documenting the experience and of the final report.  The Mechanism continued to take over functions from the Tribunal, and its efforts to track the three fugitives earmarked for trial had intensified.  The Mechanism was also pursuing a vigorous diplomatic and outreach initiative.

Concluding, he recalled his visit in September to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, during which he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the War Crimes Prosecutors and the Chief Prosecutors in all three States, setting out a framework for continued mutual assistance.

Statements

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said the reports indicated that despite the difficulties they faced, both Tribunals had made much progress towards achieving their respective mandates.  Cooperation was one of the most effective ways in which the Council could accelerate that.  Through greater consultations on the human resources aspects raised, the international community would be able to smooth the process towards achieving the outstanding tasks.  Resettlement of those acquitted and those who had served their sentences was important.  He hoped that the process of accountability would be completed soon in order to send a strong message across the world that crimes against humanity would not go unpunished.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said the twentieth anniversary of the Rwanda Tribunal was a sad reminder of the massive human tragedy and the failure of the international community to protect.  However, it was also a clear manifestation to uphold and pursue accountability of those who were responsible for the most serious crimes.  She welcomed the steady progress by both Tribunals to complete their mandates, while referring the outstanding tasks to the Residual Mechanism.  In particular, she was pleased that the Rwanda Tribunal had made tangible progress over the previous reporting period, as it had completed appellate proceedings with respect to five individuals.  Acknowledging the challenges that the Tribunals were facing in meeting the deadlines of the remaining trials and cases, she encouraged both Presidents to take all necessary measures to minimize the delays.  It was also essential for the international community to support and cooperate to achieve the most critical tasks of both Tribunals and the Residual Mechanism.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) stated that 2014 was a symbolic milestone for the International Tribunals with almost all pending cases about to cross the finish line.  Such important mandates could not be left unfinished, and, therefore, his country supported the extension of the judges’ and prosecutors’ mandates as necessary.  Calling on the Tribunals to redouble their efforts, he encouraged them to seek solutions if inefficiency and backlog of procedural problems were causing delays.  Resolution 1966 (2010) was a promise, not only to the Council, but also to the victims, witnesses and the international community itself.  It was also important to disseminate the Tribunals’ legacy.

TANGUY STEHELIN (France) said that while there were many reasons for the delays, the Tribunals should intensify efforts to meet the deadlines.  France, however, supported the mandate extensions.  It welcomed the work done by the courts to promote reconciliation and battle impunity, and it was now the responsibility of the States to carry out that work.  With 166 arrest warrants issued and tried, the Rwanda Tribunal was a guarantee of the right to truth.  Building rule of law and ensuring judicial independence must be a national priority.  France called on all Member States to support the tracking of fugitives and relocation of the acquitted and released.  The Rwanda and Yugoslavia Tribunals were major steps in the struggle against impunity, and their jurisprudential legacy must be kept alive.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) said the Rwanda Tribunal had played an important role in combating crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.  The Tribunal judged that genocide had occurred against Tutsi in Rwanda, he said, adding that reports had been reluctant to be that specific.  He thus welcomed the specific formulation in the recent report, as that was important for Rwandans.

On monitoring cases referred to national courts, he expressed concern at delays in proceedings in France.  On the other hand, referrals made to Rwanda years later had been proceeding far rapidly.  Welcoming recent initiatives on the urgency of apprehending fugitives, Rwanda wanted to see more tangible action.  He reiterated his country’s request that the Tribunal’s archives be handed over to Rwanda.  Commending the Yugoslavia Tribunal for its achievements in fulfilling its mandate, he expressed deep concern at continuing denial of genocide in Srebrenica by certain parties.

PHILIPPA KING (Australia) said both International Criminal Tribunals must complete their work expeditiously, while ensuring that trials and appeals were conducted in fair trial standards.  She believed that the successful completion of the Tribunals’ work required the extension of judges’ and prosecutors’ terms.  Further, it was critical that all stakeholders worked together to ensure the nine remaining fugitives in connection with the Rwanda court were apprehended and that solutions were found to address the plight of the eight persons acquitted by that court.  However, it was concerning that there had been insufficient progress in the cases transferred to national institutions in the former Yugoslavia, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Accordingly, Australia encouraged authorities in that country to assure that cases transferred to its jurisdiction from the Yugoslavia Tribunal advanced quickly.  Concluding, she said that if the Council was committed to guarantee that the victims and survivors of the tragedies in those countries got the justice they deserved, it would continue to provide all necessary support to the Tribunals and the Residual Mechanism.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) commended the Yugoslavia Tribunal for its determined focus on completing the outstanding cases without compromising the principles of due process.  Of particular significance was monitoring of trials and appeals to prevent delays.  Staff recruitment and retention had posed a challenge and there was a need for a balanced approach through consultations with the relevant divisions of the United Nations.  Both Tribunals had been able to move ahead in establishing themselves as a tool to combat impunity.

MARIO OYARZÁBAL (Argentina) said both courts had made substantial progress amid great complexities and challenges.  On the Rwanda Tribunal, the outstanding fugitives must be apprehended, which required the cooperation of all States.  The international community must continue providing support to both Tribunals and to victims through reparations, and he welcomed recent efforts on modalities and financing of such reparations with regard to Rwanda.  Similar efforts were needed to resettle those acquitted and those who had served their sentences.  Both courts had contributed to the international legacy that there could be no lasting peace without justice.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said that as the world continued to face mass atrocities in Syria, Central African Republic, and South Sudan, the Tribunals remained critically relevant as models of fairness and independence in the trials of more than 200 defendants accused of the worst crimes known to humanity.  As Justice Robert Jackson had said during the Nuremberg trials, “Such grave crimes cannot be ignored because the world cannot bear them repeated.”  The Tribunals were sending a message to those who might unleash similar violence, and as the Security Council had learned, lasting peace was advanced, not undermined, by justice.  The United States was pleased that there would be final judgement soon in the case of Radovan Karadžić who stood accused as the architect of the Srebrenica massacre.  Commending the Rwanda Tribunal for its work, and noting that the Mechanism branches were assuming greater responsibility, he expressed concern about the fugitives that remained at large, including three key leaders.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg) stated that the Tribunals upheld respect for rule of law and contributed to the vital processes of justice and reconciliation.  The Yugoslavia Tribunal had played a key role, not only in pursuing justice for the victims, but also in developing international criminal law in fields such as individual criminal responsibility and crimes of sexual violence.  Recognizing the Tribunal’s heavy workload and its considerable progress, she added that if the Council wanted the Tribunal to conclude its mandate effectively, nothing should affect its capacities.  Luxembourg supported the requested mandate extensions. Noting the twentieth anniversary of the creation of the Rwanda Tribunal, she said “there is no lasting peace without justice”.  The work of that court was crucial for bringing about peace in the country.  Nine suspects were still at large and Luxembourg called on countries where suspects were residing to redouble efforts to find them.

MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) said the creation of the Tribunals by the Council was a response to crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide and the need to prevent impunity.  They had made positive progress, as evidenced by the large number of cases disposed and the small number remaining.  The Tribunals also paved the way for the creation of many national tribunals.  He stressed the importance of continuing and strong international support and cooperation to allow the Tribunals to complete its tasks.  It was important to note that the Tribunals’ actions had not impeded the political processes in either country.

LI YONGSHENG (China) said the two Tribunals had overcome difficulties and made progress in their work.  However, China was concerned that the timetable set out by the Council would not be met.  He hoped the two Tribunals would continue to work efficiently in order to conclude their mandates.  He was satisfied at the progress made in transitioning to the Mechanism and stressed the importance of continued close international consultations.  Also important was the arrest of the remaining fugitives and resettling those acquitted and those who had served out their terms.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation), noting that his country was a co-sponsor of the resolution instituting the Rwanda Tribunal, stated that the Tribunal had played a key role in international criminal justice and in achieving national reconciliation.  Both Tribunals were created by the Security Council to achieve specific tasks, and were never intended to be working for so long.  The Council had consistently called on them to do their utmost to complete their work within the time frames set out in the relevant resolution.  The Russian Federation was disappointed at the insufficient pace and trial delays.  Several cases before the Yugoslavia Tribunal had dragged on for so long that indicted persons were reporting health problems, further delaying trials.  Administrative issues underpinned many of the delays and prevented the court from meeting its deadlines. That, he said, raised the question, “If the Tribunal was showing such disrespect for the Council, what kind of respect did it expect for its own legacy?”

HELEN MULVEIN (United Kingdom) said that her country was pleased to see that the trial of Radovan Karadžić was on time and hoped that other cases would follow a similar path.  The timely completion of all cases was a top priority and the low rate of progress, as mentioned by the Prosecutor, was of concern.  Welcoming the continued cooperation between Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with the Yugoslavia Tribunal, she added that genocide denial was unacceptable.  Turning to the Rwanda Tribunal, she said that the genocide in that country had deeply influenced the international community’s response to such crimes.  Rwanda’s transformation from those dark days had been extraordinary.  However the work of ensuring accountability would not be complete until the remaining fugitives were brought to justice.  The problem of relocating acquitted individuals was also unresolved.  Such individuals must be able to resume their lives, she stressed.

BANTE MANGARAL (Chad), speaking in his national capacity, said the briefings and reports had highlighted the considerable progress made towards the completion strategy and transition to the Residual Mechanism.  Administrative, legal and technical support continued to be provided and national capacities were being built.  Unfortunately, however, a variety of reasons prevented completion of the legal process as scheduled.  The international community should find a way to remove the obstacles identified so that the Tribunals could fulfil their mandates.

MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said her country attached great importance to regional cooperation, which was essential for the Yugoslavia Tribunal to complete its mandate and deliver justice.  To promote further cooperation, her country had signed several protocols, which defined channels to conclude investigations concerning citizens of other countries.  Further, the cooperation of victim-witnesses was critical to the successful prosecution of war crimes.  Stressing the complexity of handling them, however, she said there must be a high degree of sensibility and respect for their dignity and human rights.

She noted that the National Strategy for War Crimes Processing had set the uniform requirements in her country for assessing the complexity of the cases.  The Strategy improved the consistency in judicial practices across the country and strengthened the capacity of the judiciary and police authorities while ensuring the protection and support of victims and witnesses.  Concluding, she drew attention to the issue of the estimated 30,000 missing persons in the aftermath of the Bosnian war.  The search involved cooperation between the Government institutions, as well as international and non-governmental organizations.

MILAN MILANOVIĆ (Serbia) said regional cooperation must continue to contribute successfully to regional peace and reconciliation.  Intensive cooperation between the judicial and police organs of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, for instance, had led to the arrest of 15 suspects in the case of the abduction and killing of 20 people near the Bosnian village of Štrpci in 1993.  Given the positive trends, Serbia expected all countries to maintain momentum as it was their duty to the victims and their own people.

Reiterating his country’s commitment to the promotion of peace and stability, as well as to regional cooperation and dialogue, he said Serbia did not condone war-mongering rhetoric no matter where it originated.  Nor would his country accept allegations of collective responsibility and guilt.  While much had been achieved over the past two decades, it was easy to raze peace and stability.  Therefore, regional destabilization was not in the interest of the Balkan countries or Europe.  What all countries desired was respect for civilizational and democratic achievements, rule of law, and economic progress.

VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia) said a speedy trial resulting in a court decision of a conviction or acquittal represented the essential rights of the accused and victims.  As “justice delayed was justice denied”, protracted proceedings might lead to the weakening of public trust in the international justice.  In that context, it was important to remember the mastermind of the terrible events in the former Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milošević, as the proceeding had lasted so long that his death had prevented his deserved conviction.  Also, it was difficult to understand how Vojislav Šešelj, whose ideology had left behind thousands of dead and victims of horrible crimes, destruction and suffering, had been released with no clear conditions attached to his activities and conduct.  To see that the accused was set free to continue with his inflammatory speeches and scandalous provocations was “unacceptable and insulting”.  Given that, the Croatian Parliament had adopted the Declaration with regard to the Yugoslavia Tribunal’s decision on Šešelj’s provisional release, expressing its deep concern.

Taking the floor a second time, Mr. Milanović (Serbia) regretted that the Council was being used for domestic electoral campaigning.  The comments of Croatia on recent developments were not conducive to what had been achieved so far in building peace and reconciliation.  One needed to look no further than the treatment of the Serbian minority in Croatia.  Serbia had invested much in stabilizing its delicate relations with Croatia in the interest of peace; it had not raised various contentious issues with Croatia and insisted upon solutions in the belief that open questions could best be solved bilaterally and that European integration was much more vital for the region.

In response, Mr. Drobnjak (Croatia) said the European Parliament itself had noted that Šešelj had advocated for a “Greater Serbia” and had incited hatred, which might undermine recent efforts towards reconciliation.  Further, it had encouraged Serbian parties to condemn hateful rhetoric.  The European Parliament was the pivotal institution of the European Union of which Croatia was a Member State and Serbia a candidate.  It was deplorable that the issue of the Serbian minority in Croatia was brought up in the Council, and he saw no reason to provide the issue an importance it did not deserve.

For information media. Not an official record.