Without information, no reconciliation

History of the ex-Yugoslav war crimes court

2 min 8Approximate reading time

The final verdict of the UN war crimes court for former Yugoslavia was its most dramatic, with a Bosnian Croat commander committing suicide in front of judges who had just upheld his sentence.

Here is a snapshot of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which will formally close on December 31 after 24 years in operation.

- Mission: war crimes -

The United Nations established the ICTY in 1993 to try perpetrators of war crimes committed in the ethnic violence that followed the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

It is the first international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals on World War II.

Based in The Hague, the court at its height employed about 1,200 staff representing 69 nationalities. That has now dwindled to about 200.

Its purpose is to "try those individuals most responsible for appalling acts such as murder, torture, rape, enslavement, destruction of property and other crimes," according to its website.

- Judgements -

The tribunal has indicted 161 people, with its last fugitive -- one-time Croatian Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic -- being captured in July 2011.

Those charged included heads of state, prime ministers, army chiefs-of-staff, ministers and other high- and mid-level leaders from various parties to the Yugoslav conflicts.

Nineteen were acquitted and 90 have been sentenced, one of them a woman. In the outstanding cases, the indictments have either been withdrawn or halted, or the cases are in retrial or have been referred to courts in countries in the former Yugoslavia.

Fifty-six of those found guilty have already served their sentences. The court's maximum sentence is life in jail, which has been issued 11 times.

The court says it has called 4,650 witnesses.

- Highlights -

- Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic: The highest-profile prisoner of the court, he was accused of fuelling ethnic conflict and mass murder during his 13 years of iron rule.

Milosevic died in his cell from natural causes in 2006, aged 64, while awaiting a verdict on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

- Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic: He was found guilty in 2016 of genocide and nine other charges including extermination, deportations and hostage-taking.

Karadzic, 72, was sentenced to 40 years in jail but has appealed.

- Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic: Dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia", Mladic's was the last trial before the court.

Aged 74, he was sentenced to life in prison on November 22 on 10 counts including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity such as murder and deportation.

- Bosnian Croat military commander Slobodan Praljak: The 72-year-old took his own life, apparently drinking poison in court on Wednesday, in full glare of the cameras, just after judges upheld his 20-year jail term in their final verdict.

There have been two other suicides at the tribunal: Croatian Serbs Slavko Dokmanovic and Milan Babic hanged themselves in their cells.

The tribunal says that while the most significant number of cases it has heard dealt with Serbs and Bosnian Serbs, it has investigated and brought charges against people from every ethnic background including Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians.

- The follow-up -

The Mechanism for International Tribunals (MICT) has been set up to wrap up the outstanding work of the ICTY and a separate UN court trying those behind the Rwandan genocide.

The so-called residual mechanism will have the power to prosecute and review proceedings, and will supervise the enforcement of sentences, but will not issue new indictments.

Share
Sign up to the newsletter