Tribunal President Says Work Proceeding; However, Lack of Cooperation by Some States Poses ‘Nearly Insurmountable’ Problems.
For the first time since Nuremberg and Tokyo, international accountability had been brought to bear on individuals charged with violating international law, the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Antonio Cassese, said this morning, as the General Assembly began its review of the Tribunal’s activities during the past year.
The signing of the Dayton Agreement and the cessation of hostilities in the former Yugoslavia had facilitated the Tribunal’s work, Mr. Cassese told the Assembly. Seven indictees were now in detention at The Hague, the first trial was about to finish, and sentencing on another case began today. However, the lack of real cooperation by some States and entities, particularly the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and the Republika Srpska, posed major problems. For the Tribunal, which lacked enforcement capacities of its own, those problems were nearly insurmountable.
The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina said that when Bosnians were the victims of ethnic cleansing, torture, rape and genocidal murder, the most powerful countries of the United Nations had rejected intervention, instead offering humanitarian relief and the promise of justice. However, the criminals remained free, exercising power, while the victims were again been offered excuses. How could it be justified that not a single indicted war criminal had been arrested by the 60,000 armed troops of the NATO implementation force?
He said the answer lay in the words of political and military commanders, who had openly stated that apprehending an internationally indicted war criminal was not worth risking the life of one soldier from Nebraska, Lyon or Manchester. What deal had been made with the devil, the indicted war criminals, so the NATO soldiers would avoid confronting the criminals?
The representative of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia said that all were aware of the difficulties facing the Tribunal, including the lack of cooperation from State authorities and its financial problems. That was the case even though the NATO implementation force cost more in one day than the Tribunal spent in a year. In its effort to maintain peace in the Balkans, the Tribunal’s main task was to demonstrate, through the United Nations, that there was such a thing as “common humanity”.
Statements during that discussion were also made by the representatives of Italy, Austria, Ireland, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Iran, Belgium, Turkey, the United States, Germany and Slovenia.
At the outset of this morning’s meeting, the Assembly paid tribute to the memories of Ahmed Zaki, the late Permanent Representative of the Maldives, and of Paul J.F. Lusaka of Zambia, who had served as President of the Assembly at its thirty-ninth session.
Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali praised Mr. Zaki for his commitment to his country, which he had served as Prime Minister and Attorney- General. The untimely death of Mr. Zaki, who had represented his country at the United Nations for the majority of the past 15 years, was a great loss to his country and to the international community. The Secretary-General praised Mr. Lusaka as a man of great vision and honour, who was dedicated to the cause of peace and development. During a diplomatic career spanning more that 25 years, Mr. Lusaka had served Zambia with distinction, he said.
Statements in tribute were also made by Razali Ismail (Malaysia), President of the Assembly, and by the representatives of Cameroon (for the African States), Lebanon (for the Asian States), The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (for the Eastern European States), Jamaica (for the Latin American and Caribbean States), Belgium (for the Western European and other States), the United States (as host country), the Maldives, and Zambia.
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