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Statement by President Meron on Establishment of Special War Crimes Chamber in Bosnian State Court

(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
The Hague, 13 June 2003

Statement by President Meron on Establishment of Special War Crimes Chamber in Bosnian State Court

The President of the ICTY, Judge Theodor Meron, has just returned from Sarajevo where he participated in two meetings of the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC). He also met with the Bosnian Minister of Justice, Mr. Kovac, the President of the State Court, Judge Raguz, and the Deputy State Prosecutor, Ms. Kreso, for a discussion on future collaboration. In his statements to the PIC, President Meron expressed his strong support for the establishment of the special War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

Following the endorsement of the proposal by the Steering Board, President Meron expressed his satisfaction at the unanimous decision of the Steering Board to support the project and to task the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to establish an Inter-Agency Implementation Task Force (ITF), co-chaired by the OHR and the relevant BiH authorities, and assisted by the ICTY and other international organisations.

President Meron voiced his support for the development of the Chamber and his confidence that it will fully comply with international human rights and due process standards. He stressed that the establishment of the Chamber would serve an important role in establishing the rule of law and judicial institutions in BiH, as well contributing to the Tribunal’s own completion strategy.

President Meron recalled that the Security Council Presidential Statement of 23 July 2002 defined the primary mission of the Tribunal as concentrating on "the prosecution and trial of the civilian, military and paramilitary leaders suspected of being responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991, rather than on minor actors". Intermediate and lower level accused would be transferred.

He noted that holding war crimes prosecutions in the State Court of BiH would have a particularly strong resonance, given the proximity of the trials to the victims and crime scenes. Facilitating an orderly completion strategy of the Tribunal would also strongly support the goals of reconciliation and justice for the region, he said. It was particularly important that, while in the beginning the War Crimes Chamber would be staffed by both international and local Judges and Prosecutors, there would be a gradual and eventual reduction in the foreign component and a corresponding increase in the local component.

The President made it clear, however, that for the Tribunal to complete its historic mission on behalf of the international community, it would have to obtain custody of and try Radovan Karadzic and Radko Mladic.

The President endorsed a joint presentation of the project by Lord Ashdown and himself to the United Nations Security Council in September.