Dec. 2, 2014 – Trust in the UN-backed court prosecuting crimes in the former Yugoslavia is being undermined by lengthy trials that fail to reach a conclusion and this has been compounded by the provisional release of a war crimes indictee who immediately resumed his ultra-nationalistic rhetoric.
These were among the complaints made by Croatia’s President Ivo Josipovic in a letter to Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council following the decision of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to release Vojislav Seselj.
Seselj was indicted by the court in 2003 on eight counts of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes for participating in a “joint criminal enterprise” whose aim was the “permanent forcible removal” of a majority of Croat, Muslim and other non-Serb populations from Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Vojvodina. He surrendered voluntarily to the court that year and was granted provisional release last month due to poor health.
“For the sake of justice and the trust of the general public, and in particular of the victims, in international justice, it is essential that each case end within a reasonable time frame with a court decision — a conviction or an acquittal,” Josipovic wrote in his letter to Ban and the Security Council.
“Too protracted court proceedings, as in the Šešelj case, undermine trust in international law. The situation is even worse when, as in the Milošević case, the proceedings last so long that death thwarts the conviction. Such cases defeat the cause of justice and international law and result in the loss of citizens’ trust in the international administration of justice,” he added in the letter which was released by the UN on Tuesday.
After his release, Seselj told reporters that the idea of a Greater Serbia would not be abandoned.
The ICTY was established by Security Council Resolution 827 in 1993. The budget for the court, which is borne by UN member states, was $251 million for 2012/13 and the total cost for the tribunal since its inception until when it will shut down in 2016 is estimated at $2 billion.
– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz