According to HINA Croatian news agency, “All three Hague war crimes tribunals have turned down the invitation to attend a discussion on their work convened for April 10 in New York by UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic, the president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Theodor Meron, has said.
Not only the ICTY but all three war crimes tribunals turned down Jeremic’s invitation, Meron said at a panel on the role of the Hague tribunals in the protection of human rights held at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Thursday.
Jeremic convened the discussion in response to certain rulings, which raises questions about the basic rules on respect for the rule of law, Meron said, adding that his participation would not make any important contribution to the condemnation of something he cared about very much.
US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp told Al Jazeera on the fringes of the panel he would not attend the discussion and that, as far as he knew, the US would present a statement together with several other countries in support of international justice and the importance of fair trials.
Rapp warned about attempts to ascribe to international war crimes tribunals bias at the expense of a people or collective.
Terms under which entire peoples, ethnic groups or political movements are responsible for a crime should never be included at war crimes tribunals, he said, stressing that in prosecuting war crimes it was always about individualising guilt.
In war crimes it is about individual responsibility and those individuals should be held to account under the law and based on evidence, and if someone is convicted, it is a signal to the rest of the community that it is not about the community but about the individual, said Rapp.
He said the two panels convened after the General Assembly session were composed so as to be entirely unilateral in criticising the work of international war crimes tribunals. He said Jeremic should have invited both supporters and opponents of the Hague tribunals.
Asked by the press whether the date of the session, April 10, was appropriate given that on that day in 1941 the Nazi-styled Independent State of Croatia (1941-45) was declared, Rapp said Jeremic’s choice of that date was cause for concern.
The horrors of World War Two, the Ustasha government in Croatia against which we fought until all were defeated… Those involved in the persecution of Serbs, Jews and others at that time are not people we should remember that day. Every day on the calendar has some implication, but we think Jeremic could have chosen a better day. We don’t want what happened recently to be linked with those events from World War Two, said Rapp”.
Indeed not only is Jeremic’s choice of the date for the UN General Assembly debate on International tribunals justice and reconciliation a cause for concern, but the fact that several Jeremic’s outrageous public statements, which seemed to belittle and twist the weight of the ICTY rulings of acquittals of Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, have definitely left a taste of Jeremic’s misguided attempts to impute politics into criminal justice.
Serbian politics in justifying the horrors of 1990’s aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have often seen references to the horrors perpetrated against Serbs during World War II – a kind of justified revenge type of viewpoint. Surely, this cannot be permitted anywhere. The fact that many Croatians during World War II did not participate in these horrors, but fought against them is all the more reason why Serbia must not be permitted to promote the politics of World War II is such an abominable way.
Since it refers to WWII so much, Serbia would do the truth a great service if, instead of peddling coverups, it turned to its own WWII truth: Nazi occupation, Nazi puppet state led by Milan Nedic, keen collaboration with the Nazi regime by many Serbs loyal to Nedic’s government and in this enabling and facilitating the extermination of 94% of Serbian Jews by May 1942, instead of blaming it all on the German occupying forces.
Let’s trust that all the countries affected by war crimes, to be covered by the UN debate on 10 April (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Cambodia, Rwanda…), will get a fair hearing on that day and that the debate will not be consumed by Jeremic’s agenda of batting for Serbia. As I said in my previous post, when you have an obviously biased person with a narrow political agenda leading a debate, it is almost impossible to have full objectiveness of the debate process and content. Furthermore, reconciliation between people, which is on the agenda of this debate, does not depend on criminal court rulings for or against individuals, it depends on the people themselves and the resolution of issues and disputes among those peoples. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A.Ps. (Syd)