The Fabulous Watchdogs of Vuk Jeremic’s UNGA Debate on International Criminal Justice

United Nations

Reconciliation equals peace. There can be no doubt that achieving reconciliation and peace requires, among other things, a great deal of diplomacy, political maneuvering, goodwill from the people, wound healing, conflict resolution and compromise; they are achieved (or not) by the people and their representatives.

Criminal justice, on the other hand, is achieved via non-political, non-diplomatic, non-goodwill, non-manoeuvring, non-compromise – it’s pure evidence presented in courts and what it actually proves beyond any reasonable doubt that defines the path to justice done and justice seen to be done. The interpretation of evidence in criminal justice can differ between judges, but, at the end of the day, any such interpretation (majority decision) requires reasoning and corroboration that would lead any other reasonable person to make similar conclusions. Hence it cannot be political; it must not be political.
The thematic debate on the “role of international criminal justice on reconciliation” organised by Vuk Jeremic, president of UN General Assembly, to be held on 10 April 2013 has gathered a significant momentum of concern worldwide. I too, have been concerned by the likelihood that, given Jeremic’s pursuits in attempting to “improve” Serbia’s profile and restore Serbia’s prestige when it comes to the 1990’s war of Serb aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the debate – meant for addressing war crimes/justice that had affected several countries since WWII (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Cambodia, Lebanon, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Rwanda …) – will turn into a political platform for Serbia’s politics and fail to objectively address issues of reconciliation in all the countries, for victims of war crimes from several countries equally.
All Jeremic’s public statements regarding the ICTY during past several months have made it clear that this thematic debate will be indelibly linked to the work of international criminal tribunals, who actually deal with criminal justice as per individual cases and not the politics or needs of national reconciliation, or even peace.

The international criminal courts are independent and judicial institutions that should not be and cannot be concerned with reconciliation or peace. If they were, then that would mean that court decisions would be significantly coloured by other than evidential factors.
In February 2013 I wrote to the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Julia Gillard MP, seeking Australia’s intervention at the UN with view to ensuring that the “Jeremic” UNGA debate on 10 April does not end up bringing politics into criminal justice, does not end up being facilitated in a biased manner where all States concerned would not receive an equal chance to present their issues and views; does not end up as a platform for the promotion of Serbia’s politics and criminal justice politicised.

A couple of days ago I received a reply to my letter:

Dear Ms Vukic, Thank you for your letter dated 18 February 2013 in relation to the upcoming debate on the ‘role of international criminal justice in reconciliation’ in the United Nations  General
Assembly. I  have been asked to reply  on behalf of the Prime Minister.
As  a strong supporter of international criminal justice, the Australian Government  agrees that
it is imperative that this  debate, scheduled to take place on  10 April 2013, is balanced. While
it is important that all States have an opportunity to present their views in such debates,
including those that have first-hand experience of serious international crimes, the Australian
Government agrees that it would not be appropriate for the debate to reflect any particular
geopolitical agenda. To this end, Australia has been working in consultation with other States
to seek to  ensure that the  debate is not politicized”.  (Translation of reply into Croatian)

It is so reassuring to know that we do, despite a great deal of political maneuvering, live in a democratic world where criminal justice is afforded a politically-free zone even though the efforts to keep justice clear of politics and diplomacy may indeed prove most challenging.
If we are to judge from the developments on the international scene of recent, Jeremic is facing a backlash from governments and international jurists who feel he has abused his position to advance his narrow national interests.
In recent days, several international legal experts, including Song Sang-Hyun, the president of the International Criminal Court, who had confirmed their attendance at the conference have pulled out of the event. Indeed the ICTY in all its three Tribunals on criminal justice have stated they would not be attending the “Jeremic” debate.
Among those who has have, to my knowledge, cancelled or declined invitations include the president of the Assembly of States Parties for the International Criminal Court, Tina Intelmann; the UN secretary general’s special advisor on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng; the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth; and the UN secretary general lawyer Patricia O’Brien, Foreign Policy pointed out.

Jordan will boycott a controversial U.N. session on international criminal justice and reconciliation, because of concerns that the Serbian president of the General Assembly will use the event to marshal unfair criticism of the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Jordan’s ambassador to the U.N., Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, outlined his intention in a meeting with Arab ambassadors last week and will raise it on Friday with representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. He also blocked a move by the Non-Aligned movement, a bloc of 120 developing countries, to issue a statement in support of the April 10 meeting.

‘The president of the General Assembly has done little to conceal his motives regarding the thematic debate on the 10th of April, which has prompted many of the more notable early participants to withdraw,” Zeid told Turtle Bay. “They are not fooled. I was in the former Yugoslavia from 1994-1996 and, in view of what I know to be true, will also, together with my delegation, be nowhere near the event. We will encourage other delegations in the coming days to do likewise.

Furthermore, “I will neither speak nor attend the debate at the UN General Assembly,” Ivo Josipovic, Croatian President told Belgrade daily Vecernje novosti, 29 March 2013.

It would be a perfect day on ‘East River’ on 10 April 2013 if non-attendance by States is significant, if Jeremic steps down from facilitating the debate and hands the task to an independent person, if someone stands up and says: keep politics out of criminal justice, victims of war crimes are not fodder for reconciliation – they want only pure justice, roll your sleeves up and do some hard yards among the people to achieve reconciliation. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Great job of boiling down this shameless exercise in futility by Jeremic to what it really is, and confirming this by providing endorsement from legitimate sources whose strong democratic principles and history can only spell disaster for Jeremic, and the entire Serbian diplomacy dope ring along with their (B)UNGA (B)UNGA debate circus.

  2. GOOGLE ALERTS on CROATIA often pick up on your great posts Ina – Congratulations for always picking a theme of wide interest. Today I was sooooooo glad to see that your writing regarding Vuk Jeremic’s sham “debate” was once again picked up by Google newswires – alerts. Below is a segment from today where your blog features prominently.
    …South Stream Shapes European Energy Security, Nabucco Falls Behind
    Croatia gave a final nod to the South Stream in January 2013. Environmental impact assessment procedures required by national law are currently at their final stage. Gazprom and Croatia’s Plinacro inked an Action Plan to implement the South Stream …
    See all stories on this topic »
    Top 5 waterfall hikes
    Orlando Sentinel
    Plitvice Lakes is Croatia’s best known national park and the only natural spot among Croatia’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites. Located in the mountainous area of central Croatia, just off the border of Bosnia and Herzegonia, the park is comprised of …
    See all stories on this topic »
    Davis Cup 2013: Great Britain could face Spain or Switzerland
    BBC Sport
    … and set up a World Group play-off. The draw takes place at 11:00 BST on Wednesday, with the ties to be played on 13-15 September. Great Britain’s possible opponents are Spain, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Belgium or Japan.
    See all stories on this topic »
    BBC Sport

    Blogs 1 new result for Croatia

    The Fabulous Watchdogs of Vuk Jeremic’s UNGA Debate on …
    By inavukic

    (Translation of reply into Croatian). It is so reassuring to know that we do, despite a great deal of political maneuvering, live in a democratic world where criminal justice is afforded a politically-free zone even though the efforts to keep justice …
    Croatia, the War, and the Future

    Web 14 new results for Croatia

    EU-bound Croatia privatises ailing shipyard — European business …
    The Croatian government on Saturday privatised an ailing wharf as part of moves to restructure its shipbuilding sector in line with conditions for its entry into the …

  3. Markota says:

    BELGRADE — UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić says pressures to give up on a debate on the work of international criminal tribunals have not been successful.

    OK, you don’t have to cancel it you shallow selfish people from Belgrade – the debate is not supposed to be about Serbia, so stop stealing the limelight from victims.

  4. Wolfgang Meier says:

    It is truly high time that the world reviews the ways UN elects presidents of its GA – this year it’s a friggin disaster. Just imagine if when UN was established soon after WWII a Nazi official was elected president of UNGA! First, Serbia needs to bow in humility, acknowledge its crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, process all of them and then step up to be counted among those who deserve praise.

  5. Spectator says:

    I believe there are many more countries of UN who will watch over the debate and protect justice for victims.

  6. Heritage says:

    Good work Ina. Your work serves us all well – we all need to be vigilant for fairness and objectivity.

  7. Jessamy I says:

    Go Julia Gillard and the Australian Government! Thank you for caring about justice for all


  1. […] Now, I am so much prouder than ever before to be associated in life with the part of the world that …. […]

  2. […] Indeed, the debate was a flop, with several leading countries boycotting it.  While the Debate was supposed to address several international criminal tribunals such as for Lebanon, East Timor, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia…), Rwanda… it was obvious from the start that Jeremic was intending to make it all about Serbia and it’s disagreement with the Hague Tribunal’s acquittals of Croatian Generals of war crimes in November 2012. And this, of course is unacceptable because victims from all countries are equally important for UNGA and the UNGA President had a responsibility in ensuring that, rather than trying to bring Serbia’s issues and victims as the most important. […]

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