Former Yugoslavia: Tribunal must be allowed to finish its job

The Security Council is preparing to consider reports on the implementation of the "completion strategy".

To date only 37 people have received a final sentence for their crimes in the Yugoslav wars.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

"Thousands of people are yet to be tried for the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed during the violent break-up of Yugoslavia.

"Hundreds of thousands of refugees are still not able to return to their homes and to obtain full compensation for the damage.

"There cannot be reconciliation and sustainable peace in former Yugoslavia without justice for the victims of the wars in the 1990s."

Under the "completion strategy", laid down by the Security Council, the Tribunal has completed all investigations and indictments for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide at the end of 2004 and is expected to complete all cases, including appeals, by 2010.

Amnesty International believes that the Tribunal’s "completion strategy" appears to be mostly dictated by financial constraints influenced by a changing geopolitical setting, and based on the assumption that local courts in former Yugoslav countries have the capacity to continue the Tribunal’s tasks.

Kate Allen said:

"While Amnesty International welcomes recent surrenders to the Tribunal, ten people publicly indicted by the Tribunal are still at large. Three of them, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Ante Gotovina, are key indictees mentioned repeatedly in Security Council resolutions.

"The Tribunal’s Prosecutor has clearly stated that if they are not arrested and transferred in the months to come, it may be necessary to revise the target dates of the ‘completion strategy’."

Amnesty International believes that the "completion strategy" should be reviewed as it ignores crucial facts:

  • Countries in the former Yugoslavia have failed to abide by their obligation to arrest and surrender indicted suspects or to provide other assistance to the Tribunal
  • There continues to be a lack of political will to investigate all crimes committed during the violent break-up of Yugoslavia and to prosecute all suspects
  • Domestic legal frameworks define crimes and principles of criminal responsibility in a manner that is inconsistent with international law and with the Statute of the Tribunal
  • Victim and witness protection is generally non-existent or insufficient to permit effective investigations or successful prosecutions
  • Provisions on reparations, including compensation to victims and families of the victims, are inadequate

Kate Allen said:

"As long as the authorities of countries in the former Yugoslavia are unwilling or unable to tackle impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, it is the task of the international community to ensure that justice is done."

Amnesty International urges the Security Council and UN member states to extend the Tribunal activities beyond the originally set deadline of 2010; to ensure that the Tribunal’s budget is adequate to its task; and to develop a long-term, comprehensive action plan to end impunity in the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

View latest press releases