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ICTY Symposium: Final Reflections on the ICTY

At the present time, it appears more relevant than ever for the international community to reflect on why international criminal courts and tribunals are needed, what they can contribute and whether they make a difference. The efforts, achievements and challenges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY or Tribunal) provide rich material with which to answer these questions.

As one of the key events in the ICTY Legacy Dialogues series, and on the eve of its closure, the Tribunal held a final symposium on Monday, 18 December 2017 in The Hague at the Leiden University’s The Hague Campus. This occasion provided participants and attendees with an invaluable opportunity to discuss and address the contributions that the ICTY made during its 24 years of existence in three key areas:

  • Contribution to international criminal courts and tribunals;
  • Contribution to the region of the former Yugoslavia; and
  • Contribution to international criminal law.

In reflecting on these contributions, two aims were achieved. First, a picture emerged of why international criminal courts and tribunals are needed and what they can contribute both to the international community and to the communities around the world affected by genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Second, the symposium provided an opportunity for rigorous and analytical discussion about what will constitute the core of the Tribunal’s legacy. By facilitating dialogue between a variety of stakeholders, dynamic and lively debate emerged, and a range of views was both voiced and challenged.

Overall, the goal was to go beyond “taking stock” of what the ICTY has achieved, and examine what its continued, broader significance will be in the future and how its legacy can be carried forward.

Symposium Inauguration


  • Address by Saskia Bruines, Deputy Mayor for Knowledge Economy, International Affairs, Youth and Education, City of The Hague, on ‘Contemporary relevance of international courts and tribunals after the ICTY’
  • Remarks by Judge Carmel Agius, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)
  • Remarks by Carsten Stahn, Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice and Programme Director of the Grotius Centre, Leiden University


Panel I: Discussion on ICTY’s Contribution to International Criminal Courts and Tribunals


A defining feature of the ICTY’s work over its 24-year history was its role in constructing “from the ground up” a set of working practices for the developing field of international criminal law. In breaking new ground as the first tribunal of its kind since the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials after World War II, the ICTY accumulated a wealth of practical knowledge and experience that is of significant value to other international criminal courts and tribunals. This panel provided an opportunity to discuss the Tribunal’s pioneering efforts and practical impact, and debated the most important lessons that can be learnt by other international criminal courts and tribunals. Following some introductory remarks from the moderator, the panel addressed various substantive areas in turn, allowing each panellist to share reflections on how their unique respective experiences with the ICTY were carried forward to other institutions. At the end of the session there was time for questions from the audience.


John Hocking, Registrar of the ICTY

  • Judge Elizabeth Odio-Benito, Judge at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, former Judge at the ICTY and the International Criminal Court (ICC)
  • Colleen Rohan, President of the Association of Defence Counsel Practicing Before International Courts and Tribunals
  • Mark Harmon, former International Co-Investigating Judge at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and former Senior Trial Attorney at the ICTY Office of the Prosecutor
  • Martin Petrov, former Chief of Office of the Registrar of the ICTY


Panel II: Discussion on ICTY’s Contribution to the Region


The fundamental – and frank – questions underpinning this panel discussion were: “What is the significance of the Tribunal’s work in the region of the former Yugoslavia?” and “How can other international courts and tribunals best make use of the Tribunal’s experience in dealing with their own affected regions?” It is with these questions in mind that the panel discussed three distinct elements of the ICTY’s work pertaining to the region. The first of these was the Tribunal’s mandate, namely what it was meant to achieve in the region – and conversely what it was not meant to achieve and never could have achieved, given its nature as a court of law and how to better manage expectations of affected communities. Second, with reference to the experience of the ICTY, the panel discussed the nature and extent of the contribution that an international court or tribunal is capable of making in creating an historical record and thereby preventing denial of the facts. Finally, the panel discussed the ICTY’s experience and contribution to the region through cooperation with national authorities and legal systems, referral of cases, enforcement of arrest warrants, and capacity building.


David Scheffer, Professor of Law at Northwestern University and former United States Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues

  • Aleksandar Kontić, former Legal Officer, Immediate Office of the ICTY Prosecutor
  • Lord Paddy Ashdown, former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Nerma Jelačić, Deputy Director, Commission for International Justice and Accountability and former Head of Communications, ICTY
  • Hrvoje Klasi ć, Assistant Professor at the Department of History, University of Zagreb
  • Jelena Krstić, Outreach and Fundraising Director, Humanitarian Law Center


Screening Premiere: Final ICTY Documentary “No Room for Denial


Introductory Remarks by ICTY Registrar John Hocking


Panel III: Discussion on ICTY’s Contribution to International Criminal Law


The Tribunal made enormous contributions to the development of international criminal law and international humanitarian law, not only through its jurisprudence but also its procedure and practice. In many ways, it was tasked with “filling the gaps” in its own Statute, as well as in the international community’s understanding of certain crimes and modes of criminal liability. These contributions can be broadly organised into three sub-topics. First, the ICTY was a pioneer in defining modes of criminal responsibility. Second, the Tribunal fleshed out the elements of several crimes under international law, clarifying various definitions and the factual scenarios in which they apply. Third, the ICTY made significant achievements in relation to international criminal procedure. For each sub-topic, two panel members had a moderated discussion contrasting different aspects of these contributions to international criminal law.


Patricia Sellers, Special Advisor for Gender to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC and Visiting Fellow, Kellogg College, Oxford University

  • Judge Alphons Orie, Judge of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism) and former ICTY Judge
  • Göran Sluiter, Professor of International Criminal Law and Procedure, University of Amsterdam
  • Judge Fausto Pocar, ad hoc Judge at the International Court of Justice and former Judge and President of the ICTY
  • William Schabas, Professor of International Criminal Law and Human Rights, Leiden University
  • Catherine Marchi-Uhel, Head of the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism on Syria and former Head of ICTY Chambers
  • Steven Hill, Legal Adviser and Director of Legal Affairs at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (TBC)


Closing Session on the Future of International Criminal Justice


Whereas the first three panel discussions of the day considered the Tribunal’s contributions to international criminal courts and tribunals, the former Yugoslavia, and international criminal law, the final part of the symposium programme focused on the universality of the Tribunal’s work. Each speaker delivered a short but emphatic statement on the importance of international criminal courts and tribunals – particularly in today’s political climate – and the significance of the ICTY’s work on a global level. This panel event provided an opportunity for speakers to offer ideas and reflections that may serve as inspiration for the future, going beyond the field of law. This was a truly inspirational and impactful end to the day’s events, and a fitting way to conclude the last ever symposium hosted by the Tribunal.


Karim A. A. Khan QC, President of the ICC Bar Association

  • Judge Christoph Flügge, Judge of the Mechanism and former ICTY Judge
  • Judge Theodor Meron, President of the Mechanism and former Judge and President of the ICTY
  • Diane Orentlicher, Professor of International Law, Washington College of Law, American University
  • Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, President of the ICC
  • Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the ICTY and Mechanism