Briefing Security Council, Former Yugoslavia Tribunal President Expresses Pride in Closing Down Court by End of 2017

SC/13103
6 December 2017
8120th Meeting (AM)

Briefing Security Council, Former Yugoslavia Tribunal President Expresses Pride in Closing Down Court by End of 2017

Addressing the Security Council today, the President of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said he took great pride in closing down an institution of that calibre and in having kept his word to the 15‑nation organ that the Court would close by the end of 2017.

Tribunal President Carmel Agius, noting that the body had finished its judicial work on 29 November, said that in supporting the creation of the Court, his predecessors had put their signature on an important page in the history of international justice and the fight against impunity.  There was another history, however, he said, namely the history of those who were afraid to accept the Tribunal and even denounced it, of those who did not choose to fight impunity, but, for reasons of political or personal gain, blind nationalism and ethnic hatred, preferred immunity and even glorified those who had committed atrocities.

The Tribunal’s achievements did not begin and end in The Hague, he continued.  He was disturbed by the numerous crimes yet to be prosecuted before domestic courts in the former Yugoslavia.  The rise of revisionism and nationalism throughout the region could not be ignored.  “Do not delude yourselves; the absence of war does not mean peace”, he said.  Ending impunity for mass crimes was not the preserve of any one institution — it was a common goal that tied all together in the shared quest for justice, peace and stability.

“You, the Members of this Organization, decided that heinous crimes such as rape, torture, ‘ethnic cleansing’, and the wanton killing of civilians, affect each and every one of us, because they imperil the principles of civilization, as protected by the rule of law and enshrined in internationally recognized standards of human rights and humanitarian law,” he said.

Theodor Meron, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said that it was just over 25 years since the Council had created an international court for terrible crimes.  He affirmed that the Tribunal had made plain that even complex trials could and must be conducted in accordance with the panoply of due process guarantees.  As a result, the principles of international law were stronger and, “accountability for grave crimes is increasingly the expectation rather than the exception”.

Describing the current activities of the Residual Mechanism, he said it was “serving as a new, effective and efficient model of international court” in carrying out duties such as preparations for administration disposition of records, in further developing its legal and regulatory framework and working on provision of assistance to national jurisdictions.  The fulfilment of the Mechanism’s mandate depended on the ongoing support of the Council and the broader international community and on the commitment to all concerned to the invaluable legacies of the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

The Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanisms for Criminal Tribunals, Serge Brammertz, said his office remained focused on expeditiously completing the limited number of trials and appeals transferred from the former Yugoslavia Tribunal and on locating and arresting the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  It was also helping national jurisdictions investigating and prosecuting war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

He acknowledged that the Tribunal had failed to achieve reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia, where many still viewed convicted war criminals as heroes while victims and survivors were ignored and dismissed.  “The reality is that there is still no true will within the region to accept the immense wrongdoings of the past and move forward — sadly, most of all among the political leadership,” he said.  Too many people listened to war criminals, who hid behind claims of collective responsibility, when in fact no community bore responsibility for what those men had done.  He emphasized that justice was an essential precondition for achieving reconciliation.

Croatia President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovič said the Tribunal had lifted the hopes of thousands of her people who had suffered at the hands of a “merciless aggressor” and had lived up to its expectations.  She noted, however, that the Tribunal had spent too much time on procedural and status‑related matters and not enough on providing victims with a true sense of justice.  The fact that Slobodan Milošević evaded the final legal judgement remained a gaping hole in the Tribunal’s legacy.  She rejected the interpretation of the Court’s recent judgement in the Jadranko Prlić case that the Croatian nation was guilty.  Pointing to the ruling of the Appeals Chamber in July 2016, she stressed that the Tribunal did not have the competency to make findings on State responsibility.

Serbia’s Minister for Justice, Nela Kuburovič, said her country’s record in complying with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had been “exemplary”, noting that her nation had aligned its legislation with relevant standards.  Citing statistics breaking down the number of indicted people by ethnicity, she said they spoke to the selective justice of the Tribunal, before going on to note that only Serbs had been passed life sentences.  While the Tribunal receded into history, its legacy was here to stay, yet Serbia’s impression was that it had been “selective justice”, she said.

While speakers hailed the accomplishments of the Tribunal, among other things by contributing to areas of international criminal law, the representative of the Russian Federation said that at its foundation, it was assumed the Court would play an impartial role and contribute to reconciliation.  He stated however, that the Tribunal was an example of double standards, with the majority of the cases involving Serbs.  It was a one‑sided anti‑Serb interpretation, which had undermined establishing mutual trust in the Balkans.  The Tribunal had closed its eyes to the non‑legal character of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations which had killed many civilians.  A range of the Tribunal’s decisions had discredited the idea of international justice.

The representative of Uruguay said the closing of the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal was the end of an important chapter in modern history.  It was a symbol of the end of impunity.  The Rwanda Tribunal had been a pioneer in the area of international humanitarian law.  It had defined the crime of genocide and laid down significant jurisprudence regarding sexual violence and the destruction of cultural heritage.  The Tribunals had contributed to reconciliation and conveyed the message that there could be no peace without justice.

Echoed by many, the representative of Italy expressed the hope that Member States would continue to provide support to the Residual Mechanism, which was working efficiently.  There was a collective responsibility to build on the legacy of the Tribunals, he said, noting that the primary responsibility for justice for war crimes rested with States, while the international community must be ready to provide assistance and to step in if international standards could not be met.  The fight against impunity demanded full cooperation and did not finish with the closing of the Tribunals.

The representatives of Egypt, Kazakhstan, China, Bolivia, United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Senegal, Ethiopia, Ukraine and Japan also spoke.  The representative of the Russian Federation and Ukraine took the floor for a second time.

The meeting started at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:59 p.m.

Briefings

CARMEL AGIUS, President of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said that in supporting the creation of the Court, his predecessors had put their signature on an important page in the history of international justice and the fight against impunity.  There was another history, however, he said, the history of those who were afraid to accept the Tribunal and even denounced it, of those who did not choose to fight impunity, but, for reasons of political or personal gain, blind nationalism and ethnic hatred, preferred immunity and even glorified those who had committed atrocities.  Despite all the sceptics, the naysayers had embarked on a campaign against the Tribunal, he was proud to say “mission accomplished”.  The Court had, on 29 November, finished all judicial work.  There were three weeks to go to the conclusion of the Tribunal’s mandate and the fulfilment of its completion strategy.

He said the tasks entrusted to the Tribunal had been daunting, but that it had demonstrated its resilience and determination to deliver justice.  It had prosecuted and adjudicated crimes committed by individuals — not peoples or countries or Governments — in an impartial, independent and effective manner.  It had developed a completion strategy and delivered judgements in the final trial case against Ratko Mladić on 22 November and the final appeal case against Jadranko Prlić et al. on 29 November.  What had happened in court last Wednesday had been unfortunate, he said, stressing that the incident was now being thoroughly investigated.  However, those circumstances must not be allowed to overshadow the Tribunal’s final weeks or somehow undermine its legacy.  It was disturbing that some appeared to exploit that situation.

He said the Tribunal had ultimately received all of the resources and support it needed to complete its work.  If one is to believe in international criminal justice, however, it must be accepted that it would be time‑consuming, unwieldy and expensive, and that it could not be compared with criminal proceedings at the domestic level.  “Can anyone in this room honestly argue with the family members of victims that justice for their loved ones is not worth fighting for?” he asked.

As a personal observation, he said that, while serving as the Tribunal’s last President had been an honour, ensuring that it closed in a timely and dignified manner had been a heavy responsibility.  The Tribunal had been successful, he said, but success could not only be measured in terms of numbers of judgements delivered or cases concluded, but must also mean acting professionally and honourably.  “I take great pride in closing down an institution of the calibre of the ICTY [International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia] and in having kept my word to this Council that we would close by the end of this year,” he said.

The Tribunal’s achievements did not begin and end in The Hague, he continued.  The job was not done.  He said he was deeply disturbed by the huge numbers of crimes yet to be prosecuted before domestic courts in the former Yugoslavia.  He urged the United Nations to continue to assist the relevant institution on the ground.  The rise of revisionism and nationalism throughout the region could not be ignored.  “Do not delude yourselves; the absence of war does not mean peace — particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina where political conflict and unrest reign,” he said, and urged the international community to assure those of all ethnicities throughout the region that they would not be abandoned.  Ending impunity for mass crimes was not the preserve of any one institution — it was a common goal that tied all together in the shared quest for justice, peace and stability.

Acknowledging the contributions of staff, principals and Judges, he said the setting up of the Tribunal had been a powerful signal that the international community would not stand idly by and watch while barbaric acts were perpetrated.  “You, the Members of this Organization, decided that heinous crimes such as rape, torture, ‘ethnic cleansing’, and the wanton killing of civilians, affect each and every one of us, because they imperil the great principles of civilization, as protected by the rule of law and enshrined in internationally recognized standards of human rights and humanitarian law,” he said in conclusion.

THEODOR MERON, President, International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, thanking all those who had been supporting the development of the Mechanism, said, “Today, we mark a truly extraordinary milestone in international justice”.  Noting that it was just over 25 years since the Council had embarked on what he called “a bold experiment” in creating an international court for terrible crimes despite many challenges, he affirmed that the Tribunal had put to rest doubts, surpassing its most optimistic supporters’ aspirations, strengthening fundamental principles of international law and leading to a resurgence of attention to customary international law.

The Tribunal, he said, had made plain that even the most complex of trials could and must be conducted in full accordance with the panoply of due process guarantees, thus setting standards for all other trials for serious violations of international law.  The practices and procedures reflected a harmonization of different legal traditions into a coherent whole, setting valuable precedents.  As a result, principles of international law were stronger and, “accountability for grave crimes is increasingly the expectation rather than the exception”.

Turning to the current activities of the Mechanism, he said that it was in the midst of a period of heightened judicial activity.  In the ongoing appeals in the cases of Vojislav Šešelj and Radovan Karadžić, judgements were expected by the first part of 2018 and late 2019, respectively.  Any appeal filed from the recent judgement against Mr. Mladić would come within the Mechanism’s jurisdiction.  In addition, the Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović case retrial commenced in June and a host of additional ad hoc judicial matters addressed everything from requests for review of judgements to applications for access to confidential information.  The transfer of the sole contempt case remaining from the former Yugoslavia tribunal was decided last week.

In regard to Arusha, he said that the hearing in the Augustin Ngirabatware case would be the first judicial proceedings to be conducted in the courtroom in the Mechanism’s new premises there.  Recalling that the Mechanism’s Appeals Chamber granted a request for review in the case in June, he said a hearing was scheduled beginning 8 February 2018, although a pending motion might impact the schedule.  Noting that supervision of enforcement of sentences imposed by both Tribunals had been entrusted to the Mechanism, he announced that today four prisoners were expected to be transferred from the United Nations detention facility in Arusha to authorities of Senegal, after extensive engagement with that country.  Talks on the enforcement of the sentences of the other six prisoners in Arusha awaiting transfer was at an advanced stage with several Member States, he added.

The Mechanism, he said, was “serving as a new, effective and efficient model of international court” in carrying out duties such as preparations for administration disposition of records, some of which would be transferred to the archives, and in further developing its legal and regulatory framework and working on provision of assistance to national jurisdictions.  Thanking Member States for their support, he stressed that the timely and efficient fulfilment of the Mechanism’s mandate depended on the ongoing support of the Council and the broader international community and on the commitment to all concerned to the invaluable legacies of the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

SERGE BRAMMERTZ, Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanisms for Criminal Tribunals, said his office remained focused on expeditiously completing the limited number of trials and appeals transferred from the Tribunal.  In the Stanišić and Simatović case, his office had started to present its evidence and, to reduce the length of the trial, filed a motion to increase the number of trial days and hours per week.  Meanwhile, oral appeal arguments in the Šešelj case would be presented next week.

Locating and arresting the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda remained his office’s second priority, he said, with a restructured Fugitives and Investigation Unit and a new tracking team leader pursuing several new leads.  His office was also helping national jurisdictions investigating and prosecuting war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, with a focus in Rwanda on improved access to the office’s collection of evidence and, vis‑à‑vis the former Yugoslavia, ensuring continuity after the Tribunal’s closure.

Noting that the Tribunal would close its doors at the end of December, he said it would leave “a rich and complex legacy” and he highlighted some of the lessons it had learned.  Firstly, on the completion strategy, he said that by combining a focus on those most responsible for crimes with a deadline for filing new indictments, the Council had promoted effective and expeditious activity by his office.  Secondly, that strategy had foreseen a transition of responsibilities to national justice sectors.  That was critical, as only a few of the hundreds of suspects identified by his office would be prosecuted for bearing the greatest responsibility.  Thirdly, he said the office had succeeded in accounting for all fugitives at a time when the non‑arrest of fugitives was a major challenge for international justice.  In that regard, the conditionality policies applied by the European Union, the United States and other Member States had been decisive.  “Our results show that if there is a clear political agenda in favour of accountability, and if the international community speaks in one voice, those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law can be held accountable for their crimes,” he said.

He acknowledged that the Tribunal had failed to achieve reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia, where many still viewed convicted war criminals as heroes while victims and survivors were ignored and dismissed.  Difficult facts still met outright denial or rebuttals pointing to the crimes of others.  “The reality is that there is still no true will within the region to accept the immense wrongdoings of the past and move forward — sadly, most of all among the political leadership,” he said.  Too many people listened to war criminals who hid behind claims of collective responsibility, when in fact no community bore responsibility for what those men had done.  “The guilt is theirs and theirs alone,” he said, emphasizing that justice was an essential precondition for achieving reconciliation.

Concluding, he said many victims still awaited justice and countries in the region needed more support than ever.  For domestic jurisdictions to succeed, they would require the same backing that his office always received from the Council, the United Nations and Member States.  National counterparts now had primary responsibility to achieve greater justice, with his office providing access to evidence, sharing expertise and lessons learned, and promoting accountability and the search for missing persons.

Statements

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), Chair of the Council’s informal working group on international criminal tribunals, said the Court for the former Yugoslavia had fulfilled its mandate in a positive way.  In its 24 years of existence, the Tribunal had rendered judgements regarding 161 persons and left no fugitives behind.  It was regrettable that those accused of contempt, Petar Jojić, Jovo Ostojić and Vjerica Radeta, had not yet been arrested.  The Court had made progress in liquidation and handover to the Mechanism, he said, noting that the search of the eight fugitives charged by the Rwanda Tribunal was a priority of the Mechanism.

The closing of the former Yugoslavia Tribunal was the end of an important chapter in modern history, he said.  The Court had embodied the struggle for justice for 24 years.  It was a symbol of the end of impunity.  The Rwanda Tribunal had been a pioneer in the area of international humanitarian law.  It had defined the crime of genocide and laid down significant jurisprudence regarding sexual violence and the destruction of cultural heritage.  The Tribunals had contributed to reconciliation and conveyed the message that there could be no peace without justice.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) welcomed the successful completion of the work of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which had made an enormous contribution to international criminal law.  The Mechanism was working efficiently, he said, and hoped Member States would continue to provide the required support.  There was a collective responsibility to build on the legacy of the Tribunals, he said, noting that the primary responsibility for justice for war crimes rested with States, while the international community must be ready to provide assistance and to step in if international standards could not be met.  The fight against impunity demanded full cooperation and did not finish with the closing of the Tribunals.  The Council should continue to promote justice and accountability as an integral part of the United Nations strategy.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) expressed appreciation to all those who worked on the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for completing the mandate before the deadline and commended the measures to ensure a smooth transfer to the Mechanism.  The Residual Mechanism was taking charge of the files of the Tribunal and was optimizing its resources.  The establishment of the two Tribunals was proof of the serious efforts by the international community to take action against war crimes and to ensure strengthening the principle of fighting impunity.  Now that the Tribunals had carried out their tasks, it was necessary to study their work and to build upon lessons learned.  He said international tribunals were an important tool of the global community to ensure justice and punish those responsible of committing serious crimes against humanity.  Any attempt to politicize the important judicial tool must be avoided.

KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) acknowledged that measures taken by the Prosecutor’s office to locate and arrest fugitives as well as reform and strengthen its fugitive tracking activities.  He praised the office for building the capacity of the national judiciary to prosecute war crimes, despite its limited resources.  Pointing also to the Tribunal’s and Mechanism’s commitment to ensure administration of international justice, he underscored the significant role international judicial and quasi‑judicial bodies played in preserving faith in international law and the inevitability of punishing perpetrators of serious crimes.

LI YONGSHENG (China), commending the Tribunals for their efforts despite noting difficulties they had in finishing their work on time, said his country would continue to support the Mechanism as it was strongly supportive of the rule of law.  He recalled the need for the Mechanism to be small, temporary and efficient and to learn lessons from both the successes and the challenges in the operation of the Tribunals.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) affirmed that the Tribunals had played a vital role in strengthening the rule of law around the world.  He stressed that the Council must provide timely and efficient support to the Mechanism, which he hoped would play a role in strengthening national jurisdictions.  He expected that a cross‑cutting synthesis of good practices and lessons learned would be integrated into the Mechanisms work.  Paying tribute to Tribunal staff, he stressed the importance of disseminating information on its work, in order to strengthen judicial principles and ensure that the crimes it addressed would never occur again.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States), paying tribute to the Tribunals, to victims who participated in the proceedings and other stakeholders who played a role, hoped that the conviction of Mr. Mladić would send a strong message of accountability.  She called for all the rulings of the Courts to be respected, stressing that countries could not “pick and choose” the application of justice.  She welcomed the transferral of the contempt cases to them as well, renewed focus of the investigations unit on apprehending remaining fugitives and other ongoing activities of the Mechanism, noting that rewards for information leading to the arrest of the 8 fugitives were still being offered.  She affirmed that dissemination of information and assistance to national jurisdictions would help cement the legacy of the Tribunals and make known that even leaders could be held accountable for crimes.  Calling on all Governments to cooperate with the Mechanism, she noted that it was possible to bring about justice for the worst atrocities when the international community was united.

SUSAN JANE DICKSON (United Kingdom), affirming the importance of the accomplishments of the Tribunals and commending their staff, said that the Courts had fulfilled their mandates in holding perpetrators accountable for the worst crimes and had shown how justice could positively impact post‑conflict societies.  Acknowledging challenges was important however; she expressed concern that outstanding arrest warrants still existed and called on the countries of the region to cooperate in judicial affairs.  Expressing support for the Residual Mechanism, she looked forward to further progress in remaining cases and hoped they would proceed in an expeditious manner, including apprehension of remaining fugitives.  Welcoming the Mechanism’s support to national judiciaries including training on sexual violence and other areas, she affirmed the importance of dissemination of information on the Tribunals so that their work could have the maximum impact in strengthening the rule of law and averting future atrocities.

IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) said the Tribunal was unique in being the first such body to address conflict‑related sexual violence, consider violations against cultural heritage as crimes against humanity and indict a sitting head of State for war crimes.  Ensuring that perpetrators of atrocity crimes were held to account was essential in rebuilding trust between communities.  As the Tribunal completed its work, national judicial systems would hopefully build on its legacy in contributing to reconciliation in the region.  She noted, with regret, that Serbia had not carried out arrest and surrender orders issued by the Tribunal in January 2015.  She expressed concern about widespread denial of crimes and facts established by the Tribunal, which could have serious consequences for reconciliation on the Western Balkans.  Noting also that eight individuals indicted by the Tribunal remained at large, she called on States to cooperate fully with the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals for their speedy arrest.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) recalled that the Council had created the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at a time when the region had been ravaged by war crimes and genocide.  On 31 December, the Court would close its doors after judging 161 persons, demonstrating that the authors of the most heinous crimes could be brought to justice regardless of rank.  While the Tribunal had encountered several challenges and had learned lessons from its mistakes, it had also been a pioneer, contributing to establishing international criminal law.  The Council had created the Tribunal to entrench the rule of law in the region and to ensure accountability for crimes committed.  It was crucial that the accused were held accountable in equitable procedures.  Stressing that the judgements rendered could not heal the wounds inflicted in and of themselves, she said it was up to the political leaders and civil society to find the strength to rebuild their communities without giving way to revisionism.  National Governments should continue the Tribunal’s work as a true condition for reconciliation.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said the foundation of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had been a daring step by the Council.  It was assumed that it would play an impartial role and contribute to reconciliation.  However, the Court had not been up to its task and was a clear example of double standards.  During its existence, the majority of the cases concerned Serbs; it was a one‑sided anti‑Serb interpretation, which had undermined establishing mutual trust in the Balkans.  The leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army had not been judged.  Witnesses had been subjected to intimidation.  The Tribunal had closed its eyes to the non‑legal character of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations, which had killed many civilians.  In the concluding stage of the Tribunal, Slobodan Praljak had committed suicide in the court room itself.  A whole range of the Tribunal’s decisions had discredited the very idea of international justice, undermining the hope for re‑establishing peace through justice.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said there remained a difficult mission to be accomplished.  Creating the Tribunal was one of the most relevant decisions of the Organization to uphold international law and had made a substantive contribution to international criminal case law.  He hoped the Court’s work would help to prevent mass crimes and promote stability, reconciliation and strengthening the rule of law.  The international community must consider how to consolidate the legacy of the Court and its best practices, a legacy which was also a reference point for national courts.  The Residual Mechanism should consider the reintegration of those who had finished their sentences or who had been acquitted.  The temporary nature of the Mechanism entailed the need for rigorous management.

DAWIT YIRGA WOLDEGERIMA (Ethiopia), welcoming the continued support from the Council for the Tribunals and the Residual Mechanism, said it was important for States to continue to support ongoing efforts, including cooperation with apprehending the remaining fugitives.  He underscored the importance of complementarity between the Mechanism and national jurisdictions, particularly in the matter of transferred cases.  The lessons learned from the Tribunals should be utilized in future efforts to ensure accountability.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), welcoming the completion of the work of the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and praising “a job well done”, said that lessons learned from its work must be utilized to meet future challenges to the rule of law.  He urged Serbia to cooperate fully with the Mechanism on remaining issues.  Detailing the accomplishments of the Tribunals, he said that holding leaders accountable was one of their most important achievements.  That provided hope that crimes against humanity and other serious crimes committed in the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine would be subject to justice.  Welcoming the dissemination of information about the Tribunals and other work carried out by the Mechanism, he urged cooperation by all States.  He regretted that the failure to agree on a presidential statement showed the disunity of the Council and its inability to act to continue to provide accountability in many cases, including in that of the downing of a commercial airliner over Ukraine.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), Council President for the month, speaking in his national capacity, also commended the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on completing its work.  He expressed hope that the Council had learned lessons from the experience; including the fact that achieving justice depended on the cooperation of all Member States.  The Council might have acted more proactively in garnering that cooperation, he commented, calling on all States to cooperate fully with the Mechanism and affirming the importance of arresting the remaining fugitives.  Enumerating some of the accomplishments and effects of the Tribunals, he reiterated Japan’s strong support for accountability and the rule law.

Mr. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation), responding to the statement by the representative of Ukraine, said unfortunately the representative had again gone off of the subject at hand.  He stated that the first subjects of justice for crimes committed in the east of that country should be the Government in Kyiv.

Mr. YELCHENKO (Ukraine), responding to the representative of the Russian Federation, said it was the aggressor country that would have to face accountability for crimes committed in his country, adding that there was no statute of limitations.  The only way forward was ending the aggression, assuring its non‑repetition and providing reparations.

KOLINDA GRABAR‑KITAROVIĆ, President of Croatia, said the Tribunal had lifted the hopes of thousands in her country who had suffered at the hands of a “merciless aggressor”.  Indeed, Croatia looked to the Tribunal to shield its citizens from grave breaches of international humanitarian law and to punish perpetrators.  In that context, it had lived up to its expectations and was instrumental in the fight against a culture of impunity.  Equally important was its role in giving voice to more than 100,000 victims of horrific crimes.  Through the Tribunal, the international community had found a means through which it could and should react.  Thereafter, other ad hoc tribunals and the International Criminal Court had been established, taking into account its experiences, best practices and shortcomings.

Looking at the Tribunal’s record, she was “fairly satisfied” with its legacy.  She highlighted the Milan Martić and Milan Babić cases, where the Tribunal had established the existence of a joint criminal enterprise to expel the Croat population to create a greater Serbia.  She also noted that two so‑called Yugoslav People’s Army officers were convicted and sentenced for atrocities at Ovčara, where more than 260 Croatian prisoners had been executed by Serbian forces and buried in a mass grave.  Meanwhile, in the Pavle Strugar case, the Tribunal had convicted another Yugoslav People’s Army officer for civilian attacks in Dubrovnik and the destruction of a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) protected heritage site.  On the other hand, the Tribunal had not charged anyone for the horror of the three‑month siege of Vukovar, whose inhabitants had suffered a fate unseen since the Second World War.  While the judgement in the trial of Mr. Mladić had brought relief to the families of victims of the genocide in Srebrenica, many had never seen him stand trial for his crimes.

Nevertheless, critical assessments about the Tribunal had not diminished Croatia’s support for its work, she said.  Indeed, there were deficits, as in all justice systems in the world.  As such, Croatia fully supported the work of the Tribunal and respected its judgements, even if it expressed disagreement with certain aspects of its work.  In that regard, the Tribunal had spent too much time on procedural and status‑related matters and not enough on providing victims with a true sense of justice.  On far too many occasions, justice had come too late or not at all.  Furthermore, reconciliation was often set back with particular judgements that provoked opposing interpretations, not allowing the sand of time to settle over the troubled history of the region.  At the same time, the fact that Slobodan Milošević — the mastermind of the greater Serbian project — evaded the final legal judgement remained a gaping hole in the Tribunal’s legacy.

She noted that the Tribunal was not charged with dealing with the legitimacy of war, but rather the criminal responsibility of individuals during the course of war.  Consequently, she rejected the interpretation of the Court’s recent judgement in the Prlić et al case that the Croatian nation was guilty.  Pointing to the ruling of the Appeals Chamber in July 2016, she stressed that the Tribunal did not have the competency to make findings on State responsibility.

NELA KUBUROVIĆ, Minister for Justice of Serbia, said her country’s record in complying with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had been “exemplary”, noting that Belgrade had aligned its legislation with relevant standards.  Serbia’s commitment to fighting impunity had been reflected by the number and rank of the accused persons it handed over to the Tribunal.  People in high positions had been extradited as requested by the Tribunal, and Serbia had complied with 2,183 requests for assistance from the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the office of the Prosecutor of the Residual Mechanism.  A total of 1,341 requests had been submitted by various defence teams; all had been complied with.

Citing statistics breaking down the number of indicted people by ethnicity, she said they spoke to the selective justice of the Tribunal, especially in the context of its mandate to establish the truth about the armed conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and bring about reconciliation.  Only the Serbs had been passed life sentences, she noted.  Nevertheless, Serbia would continue to try war crimes and expected other countries to do so as well, she said, adding that the country had established a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the national strategy to process war crimes.  While the Tribunal receded into history, its legacy was here to stay, yet Serbia’s impression was that it had been “selective justice”, she said.  The Court which had been established to render justice impartially had often fallen short of making a contribution to regional reconciliation.

For information media. Not an official record.