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Completion Strategy Report: Prosecutor Brammertz’s address before the Security Council

Press Release
(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document.)
The Hague, 5 June 2014

Completion Strategy Report: Prosecutor Brammertz’s address before the Security Council

ICTY Prosecutor Serge Brammertz

Prosecutor Serge Brammertz addressed the Security Council today, presenting the 21st report by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) on the progress towards the completion of its mandate. In his address Prosecutor Brammertz provided an update on the current status of trials and appeals, cooperation between the OTP and the countries in the former Yugoslavia and the implementation of the National War Crimes Strategy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Prosecutor also spoke about the OTP’s endeavours to make available in-house experience collected over the past 21 years on the investigation and prosecution of international crimes, including sexual violence crimes.

At the outset the Prosecutor stated that, as forecast in his address from December last year, ‘in this reporting period the Prosecution has finished presenting its evidence in all of the remaining trials’. In the Karadžić case, the parties are preparing their final briefs and closing arguments for late August and September respectively, the Mladić defence case started on 19 May, the Hadžić defence case will begin on 3 July and the trial judgement in the Šešelj case is still pending. The Appeals Division is working on five cases in the appeals stage.

Speaking about case law, Prosecutor Brammertz pointed out to two legal precedents ‘with a broad and positive significance for both the Tribunal and for international criminal law’, established by the Appeals Judgements in the Šainović et al. and Ɖorđević cases. First, the Appeals Chamber in both cases ‘has strengthened the foundations for holding senior officials accountable for sexual violence crimes in the midst of a violent criminal campaign’. ‘Second, in the Šainović et al. case, the Appeals Chamber confirmed that “specific direction” is not a requirement of aiding and abetting, bringing the Tribunal’s case law back in line with customary international law.

Turning to the cooperation between the OTP and the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Prosecutor Brammertz stated that relationships are continuing smoothly, with Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina responding as required to the OTP’s requests for assistance and facilitating the OTP’s work on the remaining trials and appeals.

However, speaking about the implementation of the National War Crimes Strategy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Prosecutor Brammertz stated that ‘the picture is bleak'. In particular, he pointed out that ‘very little progress has been made towards finalizing the remaining Category II cases’. The Prosecutor added that the last Category II case was transferred to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2009 and that ‘only one indictment in relation to these investigation files was issued in this reporting period, leaving the other seven files pending with no discernible progress made.’  

Speaking in more general terms, the Prosecutor stated that the National War Crimes Strategy in Bosnia and Herzegovina ‘is considerably delayed and a large backlog of cases remains’. He stressed that ‘serious action is required if this large volume of cases is to be completed by the 2023 deadline’. Prosecutor Brammertz said that the delay did not arise ‘solely from a lack of resources’, but reflects ‘little commitment by the responsible institutions to prioritise war crimes investigations and prosecutions’.  

Turning to the OTP’s experiences ‘with respect to investigating and prosecuting sexual violence crimes’, Prosecutor Brammertz said that the OTP ‘is in the process of finalizing the first edition of a paper recording our best practices and lessons learned’ on the investigation and prosecution of the crimes which ‘occurred in shockingly high numbers during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia’. He noted that many of these crimes ‘remain unaddressed’. In addition, ‘large scale sexual violence crimes continue to characterize ongoing conflicts around the world’.

Prosecutor Brammertz concluded by reflecting on the practices developed and the lessons learned by the OTP over the past 21 years and stated that ‘there is increasing interest among many stakeholders in accessing this information’ and that the OTP is ‘committed to sharing it’. The Prosecutor said that the OTP would ‘continue encouraging national authorities, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to take full advantage of the resources available to them within my Office to ensure accountability for the crimes committed’.