Meron says the loss of about 10 percent of the tribunal's full-time staff could hurt its efforts to phase out its activities by 2010 as mandated by the UN Security Council.
"We are striving hard to do more with less but we can only redistribute workloads for so long," he said. "Inevitably the hiring freeze will cripple our ability to operate efficiently and to fulfill the goals of the completion strategy."
Meron credited the five permanent Security Council members with meeting their dues. But scores of other member states have fallen into arrears of close to $70 million.
The General Assembly has appropriated nearly $300 million for the tribunal for the 2004-2005 term. It provides for staffing of more than 1,000 posts.
Japan is believed to be responsible for a major portion of those arrears and has been critical of the tribunal's functioning. Japanese UN envoy Toshiro Ozawa told the Assembly today that the financial resources of member states are limited for the UN-administered tribunals prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
"The current gap between cost and the number of cases processed is still inappropriate," Ozawa said. "We believe that the operation and cost of the tribunals should be phased down in accordance with the completion strategy."
But Bosnian Ambassador Mirza Kusljugic told the assembly that the work of the Hague-based court has played a crucial role in reconciliation among ethnic groups in his country: "It is not without regret to learn from the president, honorable Judge Meron, that the international financial assistance to the tribunal is evidently drying out and I would like on behalf of my country to reiterate the pledge to the main contributors to continue their support to the tribunal as long as it is necessary."
The 11-year-old tribunal is due to hand over lower-level cases to some of the former Yugoslav states next year. Judge Meron says a special chamber in Bosnia-Herzegovina is close to being able to take over some of these cases.
He said Croatia is also making progress. But he said the state of Serbia and Montenegro has not cooperated sufficiently in tracking down indicted war criminals and sharing documents: "There still has been virtually no cooperation by Serbia and Montenegro with respect to the arrest of fugitives, access to evidence, and the granting of waivers of immunity to enable witnesses to provide statements or testify before the tribunal."
Under the strategy approved by the Security Council, the Yugoslav tribunal is due to end investigations this year, trials by 2008 and appeals by 2010.