2013-05-28 12:21:03

International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia marks anniversary

(Vatican Radio) The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has marked its 20th anniversary on Monday, amid concern about the future of some cases. Dutch King Willem-Alexander was among those invited to commemorate the occasion at a time when the United Nations court is under pressure to end its operations.

"All Rise!". That's how proceedings begin at the Tribunal since 1993. The court was established during the Balkan wars of the 1990s to punish those responsible for a variety of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. "This will be no victor's tribunal," pledged Madeleine K. Albright who was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the time.

She referred to criticism raised during the historic Nuremberg trials that those proceedings administered justice only as the victorious World War Two allies defined it. "The only victor that will prevail in this endeavor is the truth," Albright added in her remarks two decades ago.

"The Nuremberg principles have been reaffirmed. The lesson that we are all accountable to international law may finally have taken hold in our collective memory," she said.

In 2004 Radislav Krstic, the wartime commander of the Drina Corps of the Republika Srpska Army, became the first to be sentenced to 35 years in prison for aiding and abetting genocide in Bosnia. Over the last 20 years the court has indicted 161 people and sentenced 136. Two dozen cases are still ongoing, but the tribunal is under international pressure to end its work by 2016.

The court has been criticized for the time it takes to complete high-profile trials. However prosecutors point out to the arrest of Serbia’s former President Slobodan Milosevic, who was seen as the nationalist architect of the Balkan bloodshed. Yet, he eventually died in a Dutch prison in 2006, while awaiting the outcome of his lengthy trial. "He must have been poisoned behind bars," shouted angry supporters while survivors of atrocities complained the former leader avoided justice.

Victims now hope that the outcome will be different for other high profile ex-officials, such as former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic, detained in July 2008, and his Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic, captured in May 2011. Both men are accused of war crimes and genocide, including the killing by Serbian forces of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in the summer of 1995.

It became known as Europe's worst massacre since the Second World War.

Till today, investigators still search for the missing of these and other atrocities of the bloody Balkan wars which broke up Yugoslavia in independent states, killing at least over 140,000 people and displacing millions.
Listen to this report from Stefan Bos: RealAudioMP3

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