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"It is now time for the prosecution of suspected war criminals to be placed at the top of the peace agenda...Justice must be given a considerably higher priority"
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Justice Louise Arbour, and her Deputy, Mr Graham Blewitt, addressed earlier today the Plenary Meeting of the "Dayton" Peace Implementation Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Bonn (Germany).
They delivered the following Statement:
"Mr. Chairman, the Prosecutor is a separate organ of the Tribunal, independent of the Judges, and although I speak in my separate capacity, I fully agree with the President, and wish to stress that it is now time for the prosecution of suspected war criminals to be placed at the top of the peace agenda.
The Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, has created the ICTY to play a unique, crucial and timely role in the peace process. Until now, international justice has often been subordinated to other objectives, as though justice was not considered part of the restoration of the democratic process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I agree that we should focus on solutions, and I would add this: I would urge this Council to accept the fact that, in future, those parties who refuse to surrender indicted persons for trial in The Hague are unlikely to respond, any more than they have in the past, to further calls that they comply with their obligations. The plain truth is that, if accused are to be arrested and brought before the ICTY, the international community must take the initiative. The Tribunal was created in 1993 on the basis that the widespread commission of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia constituted a threat to international peace and security. I suggest to you that this threat persists, and will remain unless and until all indictees are brought to trial. While there is still a substantial international military presence on the ground, the Council should call for the immediate apprehension of persons charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and should urge NATO to secure this objective.
Mr Chairman, having made a substantial bid for increased resources in 1998, the Tribunal is now poised to discharge its mandate fully and expeditiously. I urge the international community to seize the opportunity that now exists to allow the Tribunal to bring its unique contribution to bear on the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
And we should not forget that the contribution of the International Tribunal also has an important impact on the criminal process at the national level. But so far, only intermittent and insufficient resources have been made available to the Prosecutor under the Rules of the Road Agreement. The Prosecutor’s resulting inability to review cases promptly amounts to a de facto immunity or amnesty for many accused, and that situation is anathema both to the Prosecutor and to the criminal process. Once again, justice must be given a considerably higher priority."
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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