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Message from President Meron to the ICTY Community on the Occasion of the Tribunal's 10th Anniversary

Press Release PRESIDENT

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

The Hague, 23 May 2003


Message from President Meron to the ICTY Community on the Occasion of the Tribunal's 10th Anniversary

Please find below President Meron’s message to mark the Tribunal’s 10th anniversary:

Dear Colleagues,

Ten years ago this Sunday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 827 (1993), adopting the ICTY Statute. As our Tribunal reaches its tenth anniversary, it is appropriate that we should pause to reflect briefly on what has been accomplished and on the tasks that lie ahead.

I believe that we can justly be proud of important achievements.

Our collective labours, and the labours of the many individuals who have served at the Tribunal over the years, have made a fundamental and lasting contribution to bringing justice to the people of the former Yugoslavia. The conflicts in the former Yugoslavia involved terrible crimes that destroyed or devastated hundreds of thousands of lives. The vast scale of those crimes – the murders, rapes, and deportations, the acts of torture, destruction, and cruelty – would dwarf the capacity of any single court to bring more than a very partial reckoning. But, if with painful slowness at first, with growing confidence and efficiency this Tribunal has helped bring to account a significant number of accused of high rank.

It has been our task, to use a phrase of Justice Robert Jackson, one of the Chief Prosecutors at Nuremberg, to "patiently and temperately disclose" the record of the crimes that scarred the Balkans in the 1990s. By doing so, our Tribunal has given victims a chance to see their sufferings recorded and, at least in some small measure, vindicated. By laying bare the consequences of ethnic and religious hatred, the trials held here have demonstrated the viciousness of those who built their power by encouraging their followers to embrace such hatreds. Thus, those trials have sent a powerful message that only through justice can all the peoples of the former Yugoslavia achieve reconciliation and create thriving societies.

While the work of the ICTY has been aimed principally at the people of the former Yugoslavia, it has had a broader significance as well. This Tribunal represents an historic first step toward ending the tradition of impunity for mass crimes by establishing an effective system of international criminal law. Our work involves a remarkable experiment in international co-operation and legal institution-building, bringing together individuals from varied cultures and legal heritages. The jurisprudence we have patiently built has given new life and strength to international humanitarian law, beyond what anyone would have imagined prior to the Tribunal’s creation. An impartial, effective, and professional court, conducting up to six trials a day, is a testimony to the international community’s ability to transform the notion of accountability from rhetoric to concrete reality. Our jurisprudence establishes an important foundation upon which other criminal tribunals, both international and national, in this city and around the globe, can build as they join in our common mission of bringing the long era of impunity for mass atrocities to an end.

None of these accomplishments could have been reached without the dedication, talent, hard work, and tenacity of all of you and of those who have come before you. For myself and my predecessors, I offer you heartfelt thanks.

Even as we look back with some sense of achievement, we recognize the hard work that lies ahead. Dozens of defendants await trial. Many of those indicted remain at large, notably Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Even as we begin to map a "completion strategy" for the Tribunal, we recognize that without bringing the highest-ranking indictees to justice our essential mission will remain unfulfilled. We must redouble our efforts. The next few years will be crucial ones in the life of the Tribunal. Day to day, the work that each of us does may seem small and, at times, frustrating. But if we all continue to devote our full energies to our common pursuit of justice, I am confident that we will leave an important legacy to the people of the Balkans and the world.



International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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