Press Release . Communiqué de presse
(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)
The Hague, 9 March 2005
STATEMENT OF THEODOR MERON, PRESIDENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA, DELIVERED AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE WAR CRIMES CHAMBER OF THE STATE COURT OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
9 March 2005
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, let me say how honoured I am to speak on this remarkable occasion.
Today, we mark a milestone accomplishment for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international community as a whole. The creation of the War Crimes Chamber is a landmark event in the development of the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it was achieved against incredible odds, and in a remarkably short time.
Creation of the War Crimes Chamber is further evidence of the international community’s commitment to ensuring justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and reflects the understanding that justice and accountability are necessary components of post-war reconciliation and reconstruction.
Indeed, from the beginning of its involvement, the international community has sought to increase the capacity of the judicial institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina to allow those domestic institutions to play a crucial role in the effective and fair prosecution of war criminals consistent with internationally recognized standards of due process and the rule of law.
We have known from the beginning that successfully prosecuting war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an essential component to showing that justice is being served, promoting reconciliation among Bosnia and Herzegovina’s communities, and bringing closure to the families of the victims of the war. I have always felt that war crimes trials conducted close to the scene of the crime,
and to the families of the victims, have the highest resonance and the greatest impact for reconciliation and deterrence.
In the past two years, remarkable work has been done to bring us closer to that goal. In 2003, a detailed management plan was created through the close cooperation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s judicial and governmental institutions, the OHR, and the ICTY. Later that year, the UN Security Council gave a ringing endorsement to the creation of the Chamber as an essential prerequisite
to the ICTY’s completion strategy.
In December 2004, Bosnia and Herzegovina enacted legislation to formally establish the War Crimes Chamber, culminating the tireless efforts of the many people and institutions that cooperated to make today a reality. May I single out for special recognition Lord Paddy Ashdown and his Deputy, Bernard Fassier.
We, at the ICTY, are proud of our role in the development of the rule of law in the region. We have been fully committed to the creation of the War Crimes Chamber, and more generally to strengthening the capacity of national institutions to prosecute war crimes in accordance with international standards. Through various training programmes, transfer of documents and expertise, the
Tribunal will continue to work closely with the War Crimes Chamber.
The Tribunal has established an impressive and unprecedented body of jurisprudence on both substantive international humanitarian and criminal law and, equally importantly, on criminal procedure and evidence. Our leading decisions will provide essential guidance for the War Crimes Chamber’s fair and effective prosecution of suspects. A referral bench in our Tribunal is now
considering requests of the Prosecutor for transfer of cases under the relevant rule of procedure. The Tribunal has established rules ensuring that the transfers will depend not only on seniority, but on the whole panoply of due process in the receiving court. Trials must be fair and effective. Our rules provide for the possibility of revocation of orders of referral of cases. Between
ourselves and trials in the courts of former Yugoslavia, we must work to ensure that no major war criminals will benefit from a gap of impunity, either now, or as our work at The Hague draws to an end. Let me say it again, loud and clear, the Tribunal will not close before trying Karadzic, Mladic and Gotovina.
The development of the rule of law is a key component for national reconstruction and reconciliation, and the War Crimes Chamber goes far toward solidifying the rule of law in national institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Importantly, the mission of the War Crimes Chamber must be to replace the instincts of impunity with an ideology of legality, by entrenching the rule of law
through the enforcement of well-settled legal norms.
In the last decade, we have seen a gradual emergence of democratic institutions and a return of peace to this country. However, until now, existing institutions have not been fully able to prosecute war criminals in Bosnia and Herzegovina in a fair and efficient manner, and in accordance with internationally recognized standards of due process. By establishing the War Crimes
Chamber, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international community pledge to bring to justice persons suspected of having inflicted terrible atrocities on their fellow human beings. Thus, today we mark a critical step toward eliminating impunity through the rule of law and upholding the basic principles of human rights and due process.
On this celebratory and remarkable occasion, I must note two additional factors that will be critical for the War Crimes Chamber’s success.
First, the War Crimes Chamber must have the continued political support of the government and people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to conduct effective and fair prosecutions. It will be critical that the municipal, cantonal, and state administrations cooperate with the War Crimes Chamber, particularly by making available relevant evidence.
Second, we must have the continued political and financial support of the international community.
In conclusion, I am honoured, and very pleased indeed, to join you on this promising day to witness the inauguration of the unprecedented War Crimes Chamber. The Chamber will play a crucial role in demonstrating the unbending commitment of the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international community to delivering justice to the war’s victims. The War Crimes Chamber will
contribute to the growth of the rule of law in the country by ensuring that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina themselves have the capacity and responsibility to prosecute war crimes committed on their own territory.