11.10.07 - ICTY/TRANSFER - THE ICTY BEGUN ITS TRANSFERS TWO YEARS AGO

  The Hague, 11 October 2007 (FH) - As the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is accused of wanting to transfer its last accused to Rwanda without considering legal requirements, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has transferred, for the past two years, thirteen accused to courts in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia.
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Initiated in autumn 2001, these transfers to national courts, which proceed in a completely different context, aims at making it possible for the tribunal that is based in The Hague to close its doors and "to return sovereignty to the countries from the former Yugoslavia". Created under the impulse of the international tribunal and in co-operation with the representatives of the international community in Bosnia, the special war crimes chamber in Sarajevo held its first hearing in March 2005.
 
Composed of national and international judges and prosecutors, dependent on the state court, the new court can at the same time consider the defendants transferred by the ICTY and start proceedings against those who were never directly targeted by the international tribunal. In a resolution adopted in March 2004, the Security Council invited the prosecutor to prosecute "the highest officials" for the crimes committed between 1992 and 1999 in the former Yugoslavia, leaving to national courts the care to prosecute the "intermediate" officials and the executioners.
 
In addition to it making it possible to reduce the workload of the tribunal in sight of its closure, stopped at 2010 by the United Nations, the strategy aimed at not leaving unpunished persons for crimes. Before the Security Council in November 2001, then president of the tribunal, Claude Jorda, while presenting his annual report said: "the tribunal cannot (...) consider all the persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated during the conflict (...) It does not belong to it either, he added, to analyze all the sociological and economic causes, histories, and policies of the war, nor to do alone the work of memory necessary to the rebuilding of a national identity. Its action must be in connection with national courts ".
 
Since 2005, several defendants transferred by the ICTY were convicted by the special war crimes chamber in Sarajevo. But the procedure is, however, not without problems. In May 2007, Radovan Stankovic, alias "Rambo", convicted to 20 years in prison, escaped from prison. In Serbia, the war crimes court, set up within the military tribunal of Belgrade, has started several trials.
 
Created with the support of the American State Department, the court began its work in September 2003. It also aims to prosecute persons involved in organized crime, who are also often the authors of war crimes. Croatia for a long time acted as the last of the class in the judgment of war criminals. Zagreb was pointed for its partiality by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) which observes the trials in Balkans, in co-operation with the ICTY.
 
More than ten years after the end of the Yugoslav wars, and as the three countries are candidates to integrate the European Union, the legal co-operation between the three countries has, parallel to the war crimes procedures, considerably improved.
 
Still, under the pressure of the Security Council which has scheduled for 2010 the end of cases, the Hague tribunal has engaged itself in what seems to be a true fire sale. An amendment to the rules makes it possible for the judges to limit the scope of indictments and in July, at the opening of the trial of the former Chief of Staff of the army of Bosnian Muslims, Rasim Delic, the prosecution requested the transfer of the case to Sarajevo; this request was rejected by the judges, estimating that the reduction of charges made him an "intermediate" ranking defendant.
 
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