Accessibility links

UN: Council Divides Tribunal Prosecutions, Calls For Arrest Of Fugitives

  • Robert McMahon

United Nations, 28 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The UN Security Council has voted to narrow the duties of chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte to encompass only the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Del Ponte was removed as chief war crimes prosecutor for the Rwanda genocide court at the recommendation of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He said she should be given a new four-year contract to focus entirely on the Yugoslav tribunal.

The Security Council resolution, approved unanimously on 28 August, also calls for phasing out both tribunals by 2010. All investigations, including indictments, are to be completed by the end of next year.

Syrian UN envoy Fayssal Mekdad, whose country holds the current council presidency, said there was a widespread view that reducing Del Ponte's role would make the tribunals function more efficiently. "I think this is the conviction of the council," he said. "We hope that this will create a new momentum to come out with the results that the council has decided, in a timeline and in implementation of its resolutions."

Mekdad said the Security Council is to vote on 29 August on renewing Del Ponte's four-year term as prosecutor for the Yugoslav tribunal. It will also select a new prosecutor for the Rwanda tribunal.

Del Ponte had objected to the plan to remove her from the Rwanda genocide prosecution, saying she was a victim of pressure from the Rwandan government. But her spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, told RFE/RL today that she would be "available" to serve a second term as prosecutor for the Yugoslav tribunal.

Hartmann said Del Ponte was satisfied with other aspects of the resolution. "She's relieved because there is in the resolution a guarantee of the independence of the prosecutors, which is something established in the statute of the tribunal and nothing has changed on that," she said.

The resolution also calls on officials in former Yugoslav states to improve cooperation with the tribunal. The resolution cites in particular the need to hand over for judgment Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic and Croat Ante Gotovina to face war crimes charges.

Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan sent a letter to the Security Council today objecting to the resolution's mention of Gotovina alongside Karadzic and Mladic. The tribunal indicted Gotovina two years ago for war crimes and crimes against humanity while commanding operations against secessionist Serbs in 1995. Karadzic and Mladic have been under indictment for eight years for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Racan's letter said it was wrong to equate Gotovina with Karadzic and Mladic. But he said his government calls on Gotovina to hand himself over to The Hague so he can establish his innocence.

The prosecutor's spokeswoman, Hartmann, said the tribunal is relying on assistance from former Yugoslav states to be able to carry out its mission more rapidly. "We need full cooperation of the states and we need full support of the international community to make pressure or to find a way to get some of the states who are hiding the fugitives to hand them over to the tribunal," she said.

Overall, there are 18 indictees still at large in the former Yugoslavia. All but Gotovina are either Serbs or Bosnian Serbs. The 10-year-old tribunal has convicted 38 people of various crimes and taken more than 50 others into custody.

A human rights expert for the Balkans, Elizabeth Anderson, of Human Rights Watch, said there will need to be a concerted effort by the international community to assure the remaining indictees are arrested. "The Security Council resolution alone won't speed arrests. It's linking the timeline we see in this resolution to other things that are of interest -- political and economic advancement in the region -- that will spur arrests," Anderson said.

The resolution passed on 28 August also calls on the international community to support the work of the high representative in Bosnia to create a special chamber to adjudicate charges of serious violations of humanitarian law.