The closing ceremony of the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was held at the Government of the Netherlands. The Hague Tribunal will officially be closed in next ten days. His role after 24 years of work and 161 indictments is taken over by a specially established body called the International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Courts (IRMCT).
Hague Tribunal President, Carmel Agius, said at the ceremony in the Netherlands that the ICTY is “a vivid example of the spark from which a movement of change is born”.
“Tribunal has been established as a provisional tribunal with the authority to prosecute the persons most responsible for the crimes committed in the war in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Our accomplishments show that the universality of our Tribunal has grown into a body that has formulated international standards of justice and established the best legal practice in the world. In addition, The Hague tribunal has become an inspiration around the world,” Agius said.
He added that the Tribunal has opened a new era in international justice and its legacy will survive for a long time. Agius said that the Tribunal had many partners and donors and, on behalf of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, expressed gratitude to everyone who brought this judiciary institution to this moment in history. He pointed out that the Netherlands expressed generosity by welcoming them to the court building.
“The Hague is renowned as the ultimate destination of international law, where victims around the world want to see the realisation of justice,” Agius said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Halba Zijlstra, pointed out at the ceremony that war reports in the former Yugoslavia brought horrific images.
“In the heart of Europe cities have been destroyed, people killed, those who are responsible 25 years later have been brought to justice. The story of this tribunal is a story about the success of the rights that emerged from a real tragedy, and we are here at the end of the work of the Tribunal, which is unique,” said Zijlstra.
Mayor of The Hague Pauline Krikke recalled a girl who could today be one of their fellow citizens, and she will not because she killed her grenade while playing in Sarajevo.
“She was bored to be locked in the apartment, and finally her parents let her out to play with her friends. A few minutes later, a shell exploded and killed those girls. Probably we will never know who fired these shells, but we know who had the political and military responsibility,” she said.
The event was also attended by the Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Secretary for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, and United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.
Guterres has expressed his gratitude to the Netherland and the city of Hague for a partnership that lasted for more than 20 years and which has enabled the ICTY to fulfill its mandate.
The establishment of the ICTY in 1993, according to Guterres, was of historical importance.
“The establishment of a court has shown a new resolution by the international community that those responsible for committing the most serious international criminal offenses must be brought to justice. This court has been in session for more than 10,000 days, heard almost 5,000 witnesses of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity,” Guterres said.
Reactions on the closing ceremony in BiH were different, depending on the entity. The Federation BiH officials think that the Tribunal fulfilled the important job and brought the satisfaction for most of the victims in the 1992-95 war in BiH, Republika Srpska officials are not so excited. RS National Assembly Speaker, Nedjeljko Čubrilović, said to the media that the Tribunal deepened the misunderstanding and intolerance between the peoples and countries of the former Yugoslavia with its selective approach, of victims, crimes and criminals, and that since its establishment it has had only one goal – to punish and declare guilty only one nation.
“The Hague Tribunal has ended its work without implementing its publicly-proclaimed goal and the alleged cause of its establishment – reconciliation in the region,” Cubrilovic cited in a written statement in occasion of the closure of the Hague Tribunal’s work.
He has added that after the closure of this court, the question arises to whom and what the selective justice of the Hague Tribunal has served.
“To justice and reconciliation it has clearly not,” says Cubrilovic.
He has also stressed the Serbs were sentenced to six life sentences and 758 years in prison, which is a total of approximately 1,200 years, while the Croats were sentenced to 166 years in prison and the Bosniaks to 41,5 years, adding that “political manuscript of the Hague Tribunal is clearly visible out of this”…/IBNA