Legacy website of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Since the ICTY’s closure on 31 December 2017, the Mechanism maintains this website as part of its mission to preserve and promote the legacy of the UN International Criminal Tribunals.

 Visit the Mechanism's website.

Address by his Excellency, Judge Claude Jorda, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, to the UN General Assembly.

Press Release PRESIDENT

(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)

The Hague, 27 November 2001

Address by his Excellency, Judge Claude Jorda, President of the International
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, to the UN General Assembly.

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to address your distinguished Assembly once again, as I present the eighth annual report of the International Criminal Tribunal.

I first wish to express my deep gratitude for the support you have always afforded our institution.

Two years have already elapsed since the judges demonstrated their confidence in me by electing me President of the International Tribunal. I am deeply honoured by their decision to display their confidence in me once again and I will endeavour to show myself worthy. As such, I am in a position to pursue the reform work initiated during my previous mandate.

I would like to share with you my satisfaction with the situation of the International Tribunal. It has changed for the better in the last two years. Many arrests have been carried out, a large number of judgements have been rendered and several new trials have opened. In addition, the reform process which we undertook in January 2000 has continued to expand and is starting to produce initial results.

Nonetheless, I remain concerned by two difficulties which I believe constitute obstacles to the establishment of a deep-rooted and lasting peace in the Balkans and which cannot be resolved without your active co-operation. The first problem, which I called to your attention last year, is due to the fact that many of the accused, high-ranking political and military figures, remain at large even though it is alleged that, through their criminal actions, they seriously breached international law and order and consequently jeopardised peace and security in the Balkans. The second difficulty lies in the need to adapt the fulfilment of the International Tribunal’s mission to the recent political upheavals both in the former Yugoslavia, in particular with the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic, and on the international scene, in view of the tragic events of 11 September 2001, which made the fight against terrorism a new priority for the international community.

By way of introduction, I will provide you with a brief overview of the current situation of the International Tribunal. Second, I will discuss the reforms which we undertook in order to try the accused currently in detention within a reasonable timeframe and then go on to assess the status of co-operation between the International Tribunal and the Balkan States. Lastly, I will present the International Tribunal’s prospects for the years ahead and the principal directions I would wish to take in order to bring the mission you conferred on us to the swiftest possible conclusion.

1 – The Tribunal is now operating at full capacity.

The number of people who have been arrested or who have voluntarily surrendered has increased considerably over the past year. Fifty accused are now in detention in The Hague. As a result there has been a significant increase in the activity of the Chambers. Over the last 12 months, the Trial Chambers have pronounced six judgements on the merits affecting seventeen of the accused and issued a great many decisions in proceedings which are, as you know, long and complex. They analysed the testimony of several hundred witnesses and reviewed several thousand documents. To cite you but one example: in the Dario Kordic case, which lasted 20 months, the judges pronounced some one hundred decisions during the proceedings in addition to the final judgement.

In the Appeals Chamber, the judges issued some thirty interlocutory decisions and three judgements on the merits concerning seven of the accused. Its case-law has undergone major developments and has been consolidated on some of the fundamental points of international criminal procedure and humanitarian law.

The Registrar of the International Tribunal meanwhile has performed his judicial management duties and made the best possible use of the funds you generously allocated to the Tribunal, without which it could not fulfil its mission.

2 – The ever-improving international co-operation in arresting the accused and gathering evidence still has some way to go.

This development is partly the result of the enhanced co-operation of all the member States, which have participated to a greater degree in arresting the accused and gathering evidence. This affords me great satisfaction since, need I remind you, the International Tribunal does not have its own police force to implement its decisions and must, as such, rely on the unfailing support of all the States which you represent.

In this respect, some of the political changes which the Balkans have recently witnessed are encouraging. The arrest and transfer of Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague last June attests to the resolve of the authorities of Serbia to comply with its international obligations arising out of Security Council resolution 827 and Article 29 of the Statute of the International Tribunal. Likewise, the advent of a democratic force in the Republic of Croatia almost two years ago has led to enhanced co-operation between that State and the International Tribunal.

It nonetheless remains that this new resolve to extend co-operation, which is still too inconsistent, has yet to be proven with regard to all the accused. In the same vein, it must also be broadened in respect of the enforcement of sentences since, under the Statute, the member States must receive the convicted persons. I will return to this in a moment.

3 – The expanding reform process is starting to produce initial results.

This year will undeniably have been marked by the implementation of the reforms initiated two years ago by the judges of the Tribunal with your assistance in order to accomplish the mandate we received from the community of nations with even more expeditiousness.

The reforms include both external aspects, requiring further material and human resources from the United Nations, and internal aspects, calling for an in-depth rethink of the structures and operating methods of the International Tribunal. In this regard, allow me to remind you of the three principal objectives sought by the reforms. First, they must expedite the pre-trial phase. Next, they seek to increase the International Tribunal’s trial capacity by providing it with a pool of ad litem judges to be called upon to hear specific cases. And lastly, they are intended to make the procedures more responsive to the International Tribunal’s over-riding need for expeditiousness, in particular, by bolstering the judges’ powers during the proceedings (for instance, they may fix the number of witnesses called to testify and determine how long the parties have to present their cases).

The reforms came into force pursuant, in particular, to Security Council resolution 1329. On 30 November 2000, the Security Council approved the creation of a pool of ad litem judges and amended the Statute of the International Tribunal to this end.

Furthermore, so that the different organs of the International Tribunal - the Chambers, the Office of the Prosecutor and the Registry – co-ordinate more closely in setting the judicial priorities and so that resources are better managed, a Co-ordination Council and a Management Committee were created in January 2001.

Other reforms designed mainly to improve the operation of the two International Tribunals’ Appeals Chambers are currently being implemented. In broad terms, this means providing the Chambers with all the tools they need to cope with the considerable increase in their workload and to ensure that the case-law of the two International Tribunals is more consistent.

The International Tribunal should soon also have a genuine defence organ. Ensuring that the trials are balanced has been one of the everyday concerns of the judges since the Tribunal was established. Beyond counsel actually being in court, which is already a reality, such balance requires that there be a defence counsel organisation guaranteeing their independence and professional ethics. The bar should coming into being in 2002 once the necessary consultation has been completed, in particular with defence counsel.

With the gradual adoption of these reforms, the International Tribunal’s judicial activity has increased. The first six ad litem judges called to serve at the International Tribunal in early September 2001 began to hear three new trials straight off. Thus, for the first time in its history, the International Tribunal is conducting four trials at once. Furthermore, as of January 2002, three more ad litem judges will serve at the International Tribunal, bringing the total number of ad litem judges to nine. Accordingly and as I already announced to you last year, the Trial Chambers will be holding six simultaneous trials on a daily basis, which will make it possible for the International Tribunal to double its trial capacity and complete first instance proceedings in the year 2007, with the proviso, of course, that all the accused are arrested forthwith.

4 – Arresting all the accused and reorienting the International Tribunal’s judicial priorities should be tied in with the reform process.

The hope of accomplishing our mission at the earliest opportunity kindled by the implementation of these reforms must not lead us to forget that several of the accused – high ranking political and military leaders – remain at large. Some of them reside with total impunity in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, while others have taken refuge in the territory of Republika Srpska even though its authorities claim that they wish to co-operate with the International Tribunal.

Yet, it is these individuals, who held high military or political office, that must first and foremost answer for their acts before the International Tribunal which was set up inter alia as the guarantor of peace and security in the Balkans. Should they not all be arrested in the near future, it will be impossible to achieve the mission of the International Tribunal within the intended timeframe.

Furthermore, this hope must not mask the fact that there have been significant political changes both in the Balkans and on the international scene, political changes which lead us to reflect together on the future priorities to assign to the International Tribunal.

The States of the former Yugoslavia, now more inclined towards democratic openness than before, are claiming ever more insistently the legitimate right to try the criminals in their territory themselves. At the same time, they are even proposing to establish truth and reconciliation commissions.

Along with the changes in the Balkans, the fight against terrorism - now upmost in the minds of the international community - must more than ever prompt us into bringing our mission to a swift close. This is especially so given that voices challenging the legitimacy and credibility of the Tribunal called to try crimes, some dating back over 10 years, are now beginning to make themselves heard amongst public opinion.

In addition, with the establishment of the future International Criminal Court, the States will certainly mobilise themselves further to ensure that we finish our mission as rapidly as possible so that they do not have to bear the enormous financial costs which the simultaneous operation of three international criminal courts represents.

The upheavals must prompt us to rethink in concert what judicial priorities to assign to the International Tribunal for the years to come. Admittedly, we can still introduce other reforms in order to accelerate the trials further and I will actively devote myself to doing so during the current mandate. However, it must be noted that every aspect of the proceedings, from the pre-trial management to the appeals judgement, has already been substantially improved and can no longer be appreciably amended without calling into question the principal features of the international criminal trial established under the Statute.

From this angle, I wish to reiterate the concerns of all the judges from both International Tribunals who, in the presence of the representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, met in Dublin this September and discussed the results and prospects of their mission after eight years of activity. They undertook a critical review of the legal rules available to them for fulfilling their mission and debated whether the Tribunal should not focus even more on prosecuting those crimes which constitute the most serious breaches of international public law and order, that is mostly, the crimes committed by the major military leaders and high-ranking officials. In this respect, I wish to pay special tribute to the selective prosecutorial policy of Mrs. Del Ponte, Prosecutor at the International Tribunal, who shares our core concerns in this matter and who will undoubtedly so inform the Security Council in the near future.

We also believed it appropriate to reflect on new ways to encourage the "relocation" of some cases – that is, to have the courts of the States of the former Yugoslavia conduct the trials. In addition to lightening the International Tribunal’s workload, the referral of some cases to the domestic courts should make the trials more transparent to the local population and make a more effective contribution towards reconciling the peoples of the Balkans. Yet, there can be no doubt that should we choose to go further down this avenue, we will be responsible for ensuring that these courts have the resources required so that they may accomplish their mission of justice with absolute independence and impartiality and with due regard for the principles governing international humanitarian law and the protection of human rights. For this reason, it will be our duty to ensure that, with the gradual "relocation" of cases of lesser importance for the International Tribunal, war criminals do not enjoy impunity, and that trials are not trials only in name. Let us never forget the voice of the victims, who have so far placed their trust in our Tribunal.

It will therefore fall to the international community to participate more actively and promptly in reconstructing the judicial systems of the countries created out of the former Yugoslavia. Any "relocation" process can only occur within a judicial system rebuilt on democratic foundations, which presupposes, among other things, the development of training programs for local judges, as well as perhaps also the sending of judges and international observers.

From this same perspective and on behalf of the International Tribunal, I supported the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In my view, it is a mechanism complementary to the International Tribunal’s action and, moreover, one that is essential for the reconstruction of the country’s national identity.

I will conclude this presentation by noting that, at the outset of its third mandate, the International Tribunal simply has to reflect more thoroughly on the meaning and scope of the mission it received from you.

All of the judges and I have reflected on this, and I can assure you that we are now more determined than ever to use all means - insofar as our procedural and organisational resources allow - to meet the expectations of the international community and to bring the end of our mission within sight. It should, however, be realised that the judges do not hold all the keys for doing so. Some, such as arrests and evidence, are in the hands of the States, others are held by the Office of the Prosecutor, and yet others belong to the international organisations.

Even so, I wish you to know that we are ever mindful of the fact that, in fulfilling the mission you conferred on us, the voice of the victims and reconciliation between peoples must guide our reflection as they must guide your decisions. For while it is true that there can be no peace without justice, I will make my own the words of a philosopher who said that a society cannot live in anger with itself forever, and add that it is towards this goal that the International Tribunal is striving: to understand the past in order to better prepare the future.

I thank you for your attention.


International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
For more information, please contact our Media Office in The Hague
Tel.: +31-70-512-8752; 512-5343; 512-5356 - Email:
press [at] icty.org ()
Follow ICTY on Facebook,
Twitter and Youtube