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Comments by Judge Theodor Meron, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, to the United Nations Security Council 23 November 2004

Press Release PRESIDENT

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

The Hague, 29 November 2004

Comments by Judge Theodor Meron, President of the International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia, to the United Nations Security Council 23 November 2004

Please find below President Meron’s comments to the Security Council following his address to it and the ensuing discussion with its members.

I would like first to correct one of my earlier comments. Since we have just started the Limaj case at The Hague, there have in the past few days been not four, but five, ongoing trials, in addition to the two cases that are in the judgement-writing stage.

I will begin by responding to the questions put by the representative of the Philippines. He asked why the financial problem exists and why the financial freeze continues. The freeze imposed by the Secretariat in, I believe, early May 2004, resulted from the fact that many countries - far too any countries - were in arrears with regard to their past and current budget obligations to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

During the past few weeks I have spent a lot of my time approaching individual Governments and urging them to pay their debts as soon as possible - right away, if possible. That fund-raising campaign has met with significant success. We have also approached smaller countries, which owe less money to the Tribunal but whose support is, I think, as important morally and politically as that of the major contributors. I am happy to report that in terms of arrears, the financial situation of the Tribunal today is better than it was in, say, mid-November one year ago.

I believe that we have reached a stage at which continuing the freeze would cause havoc in the very efficient and very intensive work that we are trying to accomplish in the Tribunal. It would result in much greater expense. The leadership of my Tribunal - the Prosecutor, the Registrar and I - have appealed to the Secretary-General to reconsider the freeze. Given the better financial situation, I hope that the freeze will be - as it should be - lifted soon.

I was asked by the representative of the Philippines when we can expect cases of intermediate or low-level defendants to be transferred to the area. As I mentioned earlier, six motions presented by the Prosecutor are already before the Trial Chamber, and she told us today that she will be presenting additional motions. Under our rules of procedure, the determination as to whether a case should be sent on for trial to competent national jurisdictions is in the hands of the Trial Chamber. I would prefer not to second-guess my judges, but I would like to say that I am quite hopeful that in early 2005 we will see some movement of cases - certainly to the Sarajevo special chamber, but not only there. So we are really on track. The Trial Chamber is considering those motions that have been submitted, and I am sure we will, equally expeditiously, consider motions to be submitted in the future.

The representative of Spain asked what we could do with regard to ad litem judges in order to avoid disruptions to trials. As the Council knows, the mandate of all of the ad litem judges will expire in June 2005. As I mentioned in my earlier remarks today, I have already written to the Legal Counsel of the United Nations asking it to do what is necessary in order to advance elections of a new group - a new slate - of ad litem judges as early as possible in 2005. I am confident that the Legal Counsel will consider that request soon.

In order to avoid disruptions, the mandates of individual ad litem judges who will be involved in trials that will not have been completed by June 2005 will also need to be extended, and the ICTY will be approaching the Security Council in due course to request extensions for individual judges.

I would like to draw the attention of the Council to one policy question that is not for the judges but for the Council to decide on. This relates to whether it would not be wise to lift the ban that exists under the current statute on the re-election of ad litem judges. That is a question of policy that is for the Council to consider.

Spain also asked for more information regarding States which have concluded - or with which we are in contact - concerning additional agreements on the enforcement of sentences. We now have 10 agreements of that kind with 10 countries. But as the number of people convicted grows as our docket becomes more and more impressive, we need more States to conclude such agreements with us. In this context, we also need more States to conclude agreements with us on the relocation of witnesses. Protection is needed because of the testimony given - sometimes very bravely - during our proceedings.

Our Registrar is therefore very actively involved in trying to enlarge the circle of States with whom we have agreements, and I would like to make a personal appeal to Governments to be sympathetic towards those requests and approaches, because we need that. It was the representative of Spain who asked that question, and I would like particularly to salute Spain not only for having such an agreement with us, but for the fact that four convicted persons are now serving their sentences in Spain. We understand the cost; we understand the burden; we understand the sacrifice; and we are extremely grateful.

France made the point that the transfer of cases to national jurisdictions should occur only where we can expect fair trials - trials without intimidation or ethnic or religious bias. I would like to assure the Government of France that the leadership of the Tribunal fully shares those views. We have rules of procedure that in fact make the transfer of cases to a particular jurisdiction dependent upon fairness and due process.

I would now like to conclude by making a few general comments. First, allow me to say how grateful I am to the permanent members and to the entire Security Council for the overarching message of support for the work we are now doing to try to end impunity, establish the principle of international criminal justice in a very concrete and credible way, and foster justice and reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia.

I also heard comments suggesting that the completion strategy should not be an excuse to create an impunity gap. That is very much our belief as well. We are gratified by the acknowledgement of so many members of the Council of the more efficient measures we have adopted and the reforms we have and are continuing to undertake in order to make trials as efficient and as cost-effective as possible, while ensuring that they respect human rights and international due process.

I am also very grateful to all the members of the Council for the concern they have expressed about the continuing freeze that has been imposed upon us, the continuation of which can only be disruptive to the goals of the Security Council and the prospects for the completion strategy.

Finally, with regard to the Security Council’s Working Group to review the operation of the Tribunals, which was mentioned by Germany and Spain, I have had the pleasure of working with the Group twice and I very much look forward to working with it in the future. I am sure that I speak on behalf of the Prosecutor and the Registrar when I say that the Group would be very welcome to hold its meetings in The Hague.



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