Completion Strategy Report: Prosecutor Brammertz addresses the UN Security Council
ICTY Prosecutor Serge Brammertz
Prosecutor Serge Brammertz presented today to the Security Council the Office of the Prosecutor's (OTP) 20th completion strategy report, addressing the current status of trials and appeals, cooperation between the countries in the former Yugoslavia and the OTP, and the progress of national war crimes cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as regional cooperation between Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
At the outset, the Prosecutor pointed to significant progress towards the conclusion of the remaining three trials: the Defence is in the final phase of presenting its evidence in the Karadžić case, the Prosecution has finished presenting its evidence in the Hadžić case and expects to finish presenting its evidence in the Mladić case by the end of this year. The Prosecutor stated that 'by early 2014, the Prosecution will have finished presenting its evidence-in-chief in all trials before the Tribunal'. The Prosecutor added that the 'Šešelj case suffered a serious setback' since the delivery of the trial judgement scheduled for 30 October 2013 was postponed following the disqualification of a judge. The Prosecutor stated that 'concerns raised by the Prosecution and by the members of the Šešelj Trial Chamber regarding the validity of the disqualification decision were dismissed'. Accordingly, following the appointment of a new judge, the parties await the Trial Chamber's further directions about the finalization of the case.
Noting the Tribunal’s 20th anniversary, the Prosecutor stated that the 'events during this reporting period remind us that many people in the former Yugoslavia are still waiting for answers about the fate of their loved ones'. In particular, the Prosecutor referred to the recently discovered Tomašica mass grave in North-Western Bosnia and Herzegovina, stating that 'it is one of the largest graves uncovered with more than 474 bodily remains so far exhumed'. He pointed out that it is a 'timely reminder that efforts to resolve the issue of persons still missing from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia must be accelerated'. The Prosecutor praised the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which is working together with national authorities regarding the exhumations. He also expressed support for the idea of reinforcing the capacity of the Commission to carry out work on missing persons in other regions of the world.
Turning to cooperation between the countries of the former Yugoslavia and the Tribunal, the Prosecutor stated that 'Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have responded as required' to the OTP's requests for assistance and had 'facilitated the OTP's work on the remaining trials and appeals'.
However, Prosecutor Brammertz expressed serious concerns regarding national war crimes cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Very little progress has been made towards finalizing nine of the 13 investigation files transferred by the OTP, a significant backlog of cases remains to be prosecuted as part of the National War Crimes Strategy and the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights' decision in the Maktouf and Damjanović case by the judicial system in Bosnia and Herzegovina has raised significant issues.
Turning to regional cooperation, the Prosecutor stated that 'following the recent conclusion of cooperation protocols, regular meetings are taking place and information on cases is being exchanged', but that 'further reforms are still needed to resolve on-going coordination problems, especially the legal barriers that remain to extradition'.
Prosecutor Brammertz concluded by saying that '20 years after the Tribunal opened its doors', it is 'yet to fully deliver on its promise of justice for victims and survivors of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia'. He added that the victims' and survivors' 'expectations are high - and rightly so', as 'in coming forward to testify in proceedings many have confronted deep seated fears and trauma'. The Prosecutor added that 'without their courage and commitment to the Tribunal's success', the Tribunal 'would have achieved very little'. Noting that “recent developments have seriously strained the Tribunal's relationship of trust with victims and survivors', Prosecutor Brammertz stated that the Office of the Prosecutor 'reiterates its commitment to using the last phase' of its work 'to address these concerns'.