Monday, October 15, 2007

Judge Pocar's Address to the UN General Assembly

Today, Judge Fausto Pocar, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, addressed the UN General Assembly to present the Tribunal's Annual Report. The full address is here. Here's the ICTY press release:

In today's address to the UN General Assembly on the presentation of the International Tribunal's fourteenth Annual Report, President Fausto Pocar highlighted the organisation's unparalleled efficiency and its profound impact on the development of international criminal justice, while flagging issues relevant to the completion of its mandate.

In his speech, President Pocar reported that the International Tribunal has indicted a total of 161 accused persons, with trial and appeal proceedings completed to date against 109 of those persons, including the Appeal Judgement in the Halilović case, to be rendered tomorrow. Proceedings in seven cases against eight persons are pending on appeal, with three appeals in one case expected shortly. Currently, 26 accused in seven cases are in trial proceedings, 12 accused are awaiting trial and four fugitives remain at large.

The President emphasized that ongoing trial and appeal proceedings have been conducted at an unprecedented pace, with seven trials running simultaneously in the International Tribunal's three courtrooms, and the number of appeal judgements reaching a record level of 11 judgements issued in the last year, including seven judgements in the last six months. The President summed up the International Tribunal's unique achievements by stating that, taking account of the fact that most cases are heard at both first instance and on appeal, the International Tribunal had thus far issued more than three times the amount of judicial decisions than all the other international criminal courts and tribunals combined. The President acknowledged in this regard the full commitment of all of the Judges of the International Tribunal to meeting completion strategy deadlines all the while mindful of their duty to ensure the fairness of proceedings and full respect for the rights of the accused.

President Pocar also stressed that one of the International Tribunal's main focus in the last year has been its partnership with States of the former Yugoslavia , which aims at ensuring that these States benefit as much as possible from its work. The President affirmed that the referral of cases pursuant to Rule 11bis of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence ("Rules") has helped establish those courts as the national leaders in the domestic prosecution of war crimes cases and that it is these courts which will continue the International Tribunal's mission of ending impunity. The President added that the International Tribunal had amended its Rules to allow local judicial authorities to directly petition the International Tribunal's Judges for access to protected information held by the International Tribunal and relevant to local proceedings. The President also referred to the wide-ranging outreach activities undertaken by all of the organs of the International Tribunal to strengthen cooperation with and transfer know how to Judges and Prosecutors in the former Yugoslavia, and to ensure the dissemination of the International Tribunal's judgements and decisions to the local populations. The President finally insisted on the importance of providing continuing support to the criminal justice systems in the States of the former Yugoslavia , so as to ensure that they have sufficient resources to guarantee the integrity of criminal proceedings against persons accused of international crimes. He noted in particular the need for additional training of prison staff and the provision of conditions of detention in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addressing the question of the International Tribunal's legacy, the President reported that twelve issues had been identified by ICTY and ICTR as residual issues that will remain following the completion of cases currently pending on the International Tribunals' dockets, such as outstanding fugitives, witness protection, enforcement and commutation of sentences, requests for review of judgements, and archives. The President indicated that a final paper on legacy issues had been submitted jointly by ICTY and ICTR to the Security Council Working Group on the ad hoc International Tribunals in September of this year and that the International Tribunal would pursue its work with the Working Group in the coming months.

With respect to State cooperation, the President emphasized that the completion of the mandate of the International Tribunal has always been tied to the issue of cooperation from States of the former Yugoslavia , including with respect to the arrest of outstanding fugitives. The President noted in this regard that while two of the International Tribunal's six longstanding fugitives were arrested and transferred to The Hague, Zdravko Tolimir on 31 May 2007 thanks to the cooperation of Serbia and of the Republika Srpska, and Vlastimir Đorđević on 17 June 2007 thanks to the cooperation of Serbia and of Montenegro, the International Tribunal remained frustrated with the continued failure of the international community to secure the arrest of the remaining fugitives, in particular Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić.

The President finally turned to the pressing issue of the retention of the International Tribunal's qualified staff and of the International Tribunal's Judges. The President reiterated that this issue was crucial to the continuing efficiency of the International Tribunal's work, and urged the General Assembly not to overlook the impact of staff departures on the completion strategy.

In conclusion, President Pocar stated that the International Tribunal had proved to the world that fighting impunity while upholding due process norms was possible, and had paved the way for the prosecution of serious violations of international humanitarian law in jurisdictions around the globe. He thanked the Members of the Assembly for their support to the International Tribunal, and called on all Member States to continue assisting the International Tribunal in its commitment to successfully complete its work.