Vuk Jeremic’s Paltry UNGA Presidential Mandate Facing Exit Door

Newly-elected President of the General Assembly Amb. John Ashe  of Antigua and Barbuda (right) is congratulated by current President  Vuk Jeremic. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Newly-elected President of the General Assembly Amb. John Ashe
of Antigua and Barbuda (right) is congratulated by current President
Vuk Jeremic. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The United Nations General Assembly Friday June 14 elected by acclamation Ambassador John W. Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda as President of its upcoming 68th session.
Taking the floor immediately after his election, Mr. Ashe, who is Antigua and Barbuda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, said that in 18 months, the world body would launch an agenda for sustainable development for all, which ‘may very well be the boldest and most ambitious project that the United Nations has ever had to accomplish.’
‘In order to succeed, the General Assembly needs to be equally bold, ambitious and collaborative if we are to rise to the task we are about to undertake and ensure its completion,’ he said, adding ‘failure is not an option. Let us show the world…we can be bold and decisive in our actions.’

I’ve had plenty to say on this blog and elsewhere about Vuk Jeremic and his Presidency at the UN General Assembly and am especially proud to have been one of the initiators in questioning his motives and intentions around the organising of April 10 UNGA Thematic debate on “Role of International Criminal Justice on Reconciliation”.

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.

New York based Vecernji List journalist Jadranka Juresko-Kero reports on events at East River Friday 14 June and says that at the elections of the new UNGA President, Vuk Jeremic was convinced how his mandate will not be remembered as one of the successful ones and that a great majority of member states can’t wait for him to leave so that they may be able to forget as quickly as possible how the Serbian representative attempted to use that honourable position for the promotion of his own country’s interests, with such a forceful and diplomatically unbecoming manner.

It’s customary for member states to applaud the work and efforts of an outgoing UNGA president at the election meeting for a new president”, writes Juresko – Kero. Not in this case. Juresko-Kero continues: “ How much regard member states hold for Vuk Jeremic is best reflected in that the Eastern Europe group of UN member states to which Croatia belongs did not, even as a matter of courtesy, thank Jeremic for his UN work on Friday. It’s the UN usual practice that at the elections of new GA president, the work of the exiting one is commended, and if he was truly successful all his efforts and contribution to the work of the UN are emphasized. In cases where member states are not satisfied with the candidate but believe that he did not have ill intentions they express gratitude as a matter of diplomatic courtesy, but that did not occur in Vuk Jeremic’s case. Vecernji List has found out via the representatives of US diplomacy that the Germans as representatives of the EU group also did not wish to acknowledge and convey positive messages for Jeremic’s work, but for protocol’s sake managed to coolly thank him for the ‘peculiar style’ he demonstrated in New York”.

When we supported Vuk Jeremic’s election for the President of the General Assembly we believed that he, as a young and educated man, will be of wide views and cooperate with everyone and that Serbia, which has lost in every sense – war and territorial – will know how to value the diplomatic opportunity it received. We are deeply disappointed because Jeremic has turned his East River cabinet into a Serbian fortress, he exclusively deals with the problems of his country, ignores all others, manipulates the respect of this world organization and we all can hardly wait for his one year mandate to end this summer”, an EU diplomat reportedly said to Vecernji List journalist at East River on Friday.

To anyone – like Vuk Jeremic – who did not permit the victims of war crimes to be present at the April 10 UNGA Thematic Debate on the role of international criminal justice and reconciliation (a debate that touched them in every sense) I say: good riddance! I won’t even go into his awful antics whereby as UNGA President he organised celebrations of Serbian Orthdox New Year at East River, early in 2013, and had the Serb song “March on Drina” performed there, unbeknownst to the UN General Secretary and most member states’ representatives that this very song was hummed and sung by Serbian forces during their killing sprees in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990’s! Of course victims’ organisations were in shock and complained and were abhorred, after which Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General was placed in the humiliating position of having to apologise to victims of that war for that awful orchestration at the UN. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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)

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