Credibility of int'l justice at stake: ICTY prosecutor

2013-04-18 15:27:14 GMT2013-04-18 23:27:14(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

THE HAGUE, April 18 (Xinhua) -- Some controversial acquittals at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the non-arrests of fugitives of the International Criminal Court (ICC) damage the credibility of the international justice system, ICTY chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said on Thursday.

The recent acquittals in appeal of Croatian war crimes suspects former General Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac and former Yugoslav army chief Momcilo Perisic raised questions over the functioning of the ICTY.

Vuk Jeremic, the Serbian president of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly, even scheduled a debate about the performance of the Tribunal on April 10. During the session, the Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic described the Hague war crimes court as a biased "inquisition."

The ICTY refused to be represented at the discussion. "I am not interested in entering the general polemic," said Brammertz at a press meeting in The Hague. "But at least I would like to say it's a missed opportunity to have a positive impact on reconciliation."

"In general terms I have no problems with acquittals," added the ICTY prosecutor. "Acquittals show that international tribunals are not machines but look at individual cases."

"We understand the frustrations from the political side, but especially from the side of the victims. There is no doubt crimes have been committed in these cases. But as part of the proceedings, we have no other option than to accept the opinion of the majority of judges."

"This jurisprudence creates more uncertainty than certainty and in the long run will have a negative impact on international justice," said Brammertz. "We do not think that this decision (in Gotovina case) is correctly reflecting the previous jurisprudence of the Tribunal."

Another court based in The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC), also has problems of credibility, because many indicted suspects have not been handed over to the court yet.

Brammertz emphasized he still believes in international justice, but also has doubts.

"I still believe in international justice, but I don't think it has been strengthened over the past 10 years," he said.

"I am pleased to see that when people are talking about peace in a conflict the judicial component is always a part of the discussion. I see an important progress, but to say everything is fine, no, of course not," he said.

"We have challenges at the ICTY, but I see even much more work for other tribunals," he said. "The non-arrest of fugitives is more and more undermining the credibility of international justice. What's the point of the ICC to have an arrest warrant for eight years and some of these persons can travel in the region and nothing is happening?"

"We are far from a satisfactory situation," Brammertz concluded. "One has clearly to decide what kind of international justice do we want?"

"I believe in international justice, but I am also critical in what we achieved and what we not achieved. It could be done better," he said.

The ICTY was founded in 1993 to prosecute serious crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia, with all 161 indicted fugitives now been captured. The trials against Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic will be the last to be finished.

The Tribunal should end its work by Dec. 31, 2014 and transfer its responsibilities to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals which will begin functioning for the ICTY branch on July 1 this year.

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