By Eduardo Reyes*
The end is near for the groundbreaking international tribunal established to try alleged crimes committed in the conflicts of the former Yugoslavia. Eduardo Reyes travelled to The Hague to assess its achievements.
There was a time in the mid-1990s when it seemed the main legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) would be the fact that it had been constituted and issued indictments.
The first court of its kind since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, it faced an enormous obstacle that those predecessor tribunals did not. In many cases, its indictees remained politically powerful, well connected and at large.
Where the areas in which the indictees lived had been pacified, such was the fragile nature of peace it was widely believed their apprehension risked restarting a conflict that had left more than 100,000 dead in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone. Continue reading
“We are at a critical stage in the transition of international criminal justice. The primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting international crimes no longer lies with ad hoc tribunals like the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR); rather that responsibility has shifted to national authorities.”
This is the first sentence of the foreword accompanying a manual released on 10 February by the Prosecutor of the ICTR and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), Mr. Hassan Bubacar Jallow, sharing his office’s experience in securing the referral of ten genocide indictments to national jurisdictions for trial.
1998. The trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu begins. With this case, the ICTR becomes the first international tribunal to enter a judgement for genocide and the first to interpret the definition of genocide set forth in the 1948 Geneva Conventions. ©ICTR
According to Mr. Jallow, the shift to primacy of national prosecutions is reflected in the Rome Statute’s principle of complementarity, as well as in the establishment of the MICT, which makes the referral of cases to national jurisdictions a priority in the completion of the ad hoc tribunals’ remaining work.
The 57-page long manual, “Complementarity In Action”, shares lessons learned from the ICTR Prosecutor’s referral of international criminal cases to national jurisdictions for trial. The Office of the Prosecutor’s (OTP) experiences provide useful lessons for other international courts and tribunals seeking to refer international criminal cases to national jurisdictions. They also provide valuable lessons for national jurisdictions seeking to establish their own ability to fairly prosecute international crimes at the domestic level. Continue reading