(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
President Cassese takes stock of current co-operation between Croatia, the FRY and the Tribunal
Having met, in the last two weeks, with high-ranking officials of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Tribunal's President, Judge Antonio Cassese, wishes to make the following points:
1. As for Croatia's co-operation with the Tribunal, it should be stressed that the Zagreb authorities, besides allowing the Prosecutor to open an office in Zagreb in November 1994, have allowed the Prosecutor's investigators to carry out investigations unhindered. However, in spite of four requests sent by President Cassese between 1994 and 1995 to the Minister of Justice in Zagreb, so far no implementing legislation has been passed to give effect to the Tribunal's Statute. Similarly, the Croatian authorities have failed to execute arrest warrants issued by Judges of the Tribunal. In particular reference is made to the arrest warrant against Mr Blaski, who is at present a high ranking officer in the Croatian military hierarchy. In meetings which President Cassese held in Zagreb on 15 January 1996 it was promised that a bill to implement the Statute would soon be submitted to Parliament and also that it would be announced in the near future that Croatia is ready to allow persons convicted by the Tribunal to serve their sentences in Croatian prisons. The Croatian authorities also suggested that the indicted Croats could appear voluntarily before the International Criminal Tribunal on the condition that they remained at liberty. It should be emphasized however that it is only for the appropriate Trial Chamber of the Tribunal to decide upon this matter after the indictee has made an initial appearance before the Trial Chamber.
2. As for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, it should be stressed that so far, in addition to failing to pass implementing legislation and to execute arrest warrants issued by the Tribunal, the F.R.Y. has gone so far as to refuse to "recognise" the Tribunal.
However, following the Dayton Agreements, in meetings held with President Cassese in Belgrade on 23 and 24 January 1996, the authorities agreed to allow the Tribunal's Prosecutor to open an office in Belgrade and to make investigations and interviewwitnesses there together with, or under the direction of, an investigating judge or a prosecutor of the F.R.Y. The Belgrade authorities also suggested that they might arrest and possibly surrender to the Tribunal non-nationals indicted by the Prosecutor who happen to be in the territory of the F.R.Y., subject however to the requirements of F.R.Y. legislation and on a case by case basis.
3. It should be emphasized that it is a fact that so far the arrest warrants issued by the Tribunal have not been executed by the authorities of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This is in breach of the international legal obligation incumbent upon these States to co-operate with the Tribunal. It is well known that there exists in international law a universally recognised principle whereby States cannot plead provisions of their own law or the lack of implementing national legislation, for the purpose of being relieved of their duty to fulfil international legal obligations. This principle has been repeatedly proclaimed by various international courts including the International Court of Justice. In particular, the Permanent Court of International Justice stated as early as 1931, that "a State cannot adduce ... its own Constitution with a view to evading obligations incumbent upon it under international law or treaties in force".
President Cassese fervently hopes that both Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will co-operate with the Tribunal and, in particular, will execute arrest warrants issued by the Tribunal.
In the coming two weeks, President Cassese will report in full to the European Commissioners and the European Foreign Ministers in Brussels on his recent talks with the authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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