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Guest Post: 10th ICTY Completion Strategy report to UNSC

[In this post Amy Senier returns with a piece on last week’s report by President Robinson of the ICTY to the UN Security Council on the Tribunal’s completion strategy.]

Last week Judge Patrick Robinson, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”) delivered the ICTY President’s 10th report on the Tribunal’s Completion Strategy to the UN Security Council.  Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1534 (2004), the ICTY’s President and Prosecutor are required to report to the Council twice per year their plans to implement the Completion Strategy outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 1503 (2003).  Resolutions 1503 and 1534 both call for the completion of investigations by 2004, the conclusion of trials at first instance by the end 2008 and the completion of all Tribunal work in 2010.

Judge Robinson informed the Security Council that the Tribunal is “on track” to complete most trials during 2009, though he cautioned that a number of trials will continue into 2010.  Similarly, while Judge Robinson predicted that most appeals would conclude by 2011, he left open the possibility that some would stretch into 2012.

Judge Robinson attributed the delay in the conclusion of trials to the late arrests of several of the Tribunal’s indictees, including Vlastimir Đorđević and Stojan Zupljanin. Đorđević and Zupljanin were arrested in 2008 and 2007 respectively.  Judge Robinson pointed out that while Zupljanin’s case has been joined with that of Mićo Stanisić in order to reduce the costs of running two separate trials for men indicted for similar crimes during the same time period, the joinder has delayed the start of Stanisić’s trial, which was ready to begin when Zupljanin was arrested.  By contrast, Đorđević was arrested after the trial of Milan Milutinović, et al. had begun.  Had Đorđević been surrendered to the ICTY earlier, the Tribunal could have avoided the need to try him separately, as it must do now.  The effect of late arrests upon the Tribunal’s efforts to complete its work prompted Judge Robinson to urge the international community to “focus its efforts on securing the immediate arrest of the remaining fugitives as a matter of urgency, in accordance with the obligations of States under Article 29 of the Tribunal’s Statute.”

The Security Council heard about more than the ICTY’s challenges last week.  Judge Robinson reported on the Tribunal’s track record (116 completed proceedings against 161 indictees in 15 years); several innovative procedural developments aimed increasing efficiency (such as the admission of adjudicated facts and evidence in writing under Rule 94 of the ICTY’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, the reduced scope of indictments, and time limits on the prosecution’s presentation of evidence); as well as the commitment of many ICTY judges and staff to completing the Tribunal’s work.  With respect to the latter, Judge Robinson warned the Security Council that “incentives” must be established to encourage staff to remain at the ICTY through the course of its Completion Strategy, lest the tribunal lose its “highly and uniquely qualified legal staff” in its final years.

Judge Robinson also stressed the ICTY’s success in bolstering the delivery of justice throughout the former Yugoslavia by highlighting the Tribunal’s capacity-building efforts in the region, which involve all organs of the ICTY in training domestic judges and lawyers as well as the future publication of several best practices guides intended to assist other institutions in managing complex war crimes adjudications.

At the conclusion of his report to the Security Council, Judge Robinson pleaded for recognition of the ICTY’s accomplishments and challenges:

I address you today humbled by the magnitude and complexity of the pioneering role of the Tribunal and deeply concerned that as the Tribunal’s work draws towards its final stages it should remain sufficiently resourced to discharge its mandate. I therefore implore you today, members of the Security Council and of the international community: Give the Tribunal the support it needs to enable it to discharge its historic role.

On another note, do visit the ICTY’s new website.  It has recently been redesigned and is more engaging and user-friendly than ever before.  For example, there is now a page featuring video links to select witness testimonies and statements of guilt by the accused.

Amy Senier

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