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Statement of Judge Theodor Meron, President of the ICTY, to the UN Security Council

Press Release . Communiqué de presse

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


The Hague, 9 October 2003



Please find below the full text of the Statement made by Judge Theodor Meron, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, to the United Nations Security Council on 8 October2003.

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour to address this distinguished body. The honour is magnified because I come before you in the company of Lord Ashdown. For many years now, Lord Ashdown has been a tireless and resourceful servant of the international community. I pay tribute to his wisdom and skill.

You have heard from Lord Ashdown about several aspects of his work in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the past year. I am here to add some words of support and elaboration about one part of that work, the establishment of a special War Crimes Chamber within the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The creation of the War Crimes Chamber in Sarajevo has been a joint initiative of the Office of the High Representative and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. This past February, my predecessor as President of the ICTY, Claude Jorda of France, and Lord Ashdown’s Senior Deputy, Bernard Fassier, initiated a joint proposal outlining the structure and
financing of the War Crimes Chamber. I twice had the honour to address the steering board of the Peace Implementation Council about the proposal, and I am grateful that PIC steering board endorsed the project in June. I am grateful as well that the Security Council added its imprimatur to the War Crimes Chamber in resolution 1503 of the 28 August 2003, called for its "expeditious
establishment," and urged the donor community to support the project financially.

We are now moving from plans to action. Later this month, the ICTY will host an OHR donors’ conference in the Tribunal at The Hague. That conference, which builds on two earlier meetings in Sarajevo, should put in place the War Crimes Chamber’s financial foundation. Once that foundation is laid, a series of working groups will be created to address many of the detailed policies
needed to get the War Crimes Chamber running. Those groups, staffed by representatives from the OHR, the ICTY, relevant departments of the Bosnia and Herzegovina government, and interested groups such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the European Union Police Mission, will address such issues as rules of procedure and evidence, witness protection, investigations, detention, and
transfer of cases and evidence from the ICTY.

The Sarajevo War Crimes Chamber will serve several important functions and make a crucial contribution to the achievement of several important goals of the international community.

First, from the perspective of the ICTY, the creation of the War Crimes Chamber will serve, as the Security Council recognized in resolution 1503, as "an essential prerequisite" for the success of the ICTY’s completion strategy, its plan to complete its mission within the time-frame indicated by the Security Council. That completion strategy has a number of components, including
focusing the work of the Tribunal more tightly on the prosecution of the most senior leaders suspected or accused of being most responsible for crimes within the ICTYs’ jurisdiction and enacting a series of internal procedural reforms designed to improve the efficiency of the ICTY’s proceedings. Some of those reforms have already been adopted. Others will soon be. Within the overall
completion strategy, the establishment of an orderly process for transferring certain cases from the ICTY to a judicial institution of the emerging Bosnian government will play an absolutely vital role. Winding up the work of the ICTY in a reasoned and timely fashion will itself contribute to the progress of reconstruction in the region. That orderly completion strategy will also form
an essential element in the legacy the Tribunal will leave to the international community’s historic effort to bring accountability for those who commit terrible atrocities.

Second, as Lord Ashdown has indicated, the establishment of the War Crimes Chamber will contribute directly to the realization of OHR’s Mission Implementation Plan. The War Crimes Chamber will make a powerful contribution to OHR’s overall efforts to establish a firm foundation for the rule of law in the national institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The experience local
prosecutors and judges gain in the War Crimes Chamber will carry over to their work in other areas of law enforcement.

Third, the War Crimes Chamber will ensure that the prosecution of war criminals takes place in Bosnia and Herzegovina in an efficient and fair manner, and in accordance with internationally recognized standards of due process.

At present, unfortunately, we cannot rely exclusively on the existing institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite the gradual re-establishment of democratic institutions and the return of peace to the country, the local courts still suffer from significant structural difficulties, as well as from lack of co-operation between the two entities; political pressures brought to bear
on judges and prosecutors; the often mono-ethnic composition of the local courts; ethnic bias; difficulties protecting victims and witnesses effectively; and lack of adequate training of court personnel.

While the OHR has initiated far-reaching reforms of the judicial system, the process of reform will not be completed for several years. The establishment of a specialized War Crimes Chamber that will include international judges in its early years offers the best chance for rendering justice expeditiously and thus advancing the process of reconciliation in a timely way. The
possibility of internationally credible war crimes prosecutions in entity or cantonal courts unfortunately cannot be contemplated as yet.

The establishment and success of the special War Crimes Chamber can play a crucial role in demonstrating the international community’s commitment to ensuring justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It can contribute powerfully to the solid growth of the rule of law. Transferring to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina themselves the responsibility for prosecuting war crimes committed on
their territory can play an absolutely essential role in advancing that country’s reconstruction and its integration into the international community.

A tremendous amount of work remains to be done before the Chamber is up and running. The work runs the gamut, from construction and renovation of buildings to house the Chamber, to enactment of laws and rules, to the hiring of local and international judges and prosecutors, to the establishment of mechanisms for the transfer of evidence and defendants. The international community
must fully engage in this task if an imaginative blueprint is to be turned into a vital reality.

Thank you very much for your attention. I look forward to answering any questions you may have.