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Procedure : 2008/2290(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0112/2009

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Debates :

PV 11/03/2009 - 13
CRE 11/03/2009 - 13

Votes :

PV 12/03/2009 - 7.12
CRE 12/03/2009 - 7.12
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

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Texts adopted
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Thursday, 12 March 2009 - Strasbourg Final edition
The mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

European Parliament recommendation to the Council of 12 March 2009 on the mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (2008/2290(INI))

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the proposal for a recommendation to the Council, submitted by Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck and others on behalf of the ALDE Group, on the mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ("the Tribunal") (B6-0417/2008), covering the republics that make up the territory that was, until 25 June 1991, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo and Slovenia,

–   having regard to the fact that the Tribunal is a United Nations court of law, operating in Europe and dealing with European issues, set up in 1993 as a temporary institution specifically to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia since 1991 and to prosecute those responsible,

–   having regard to the fact that, at the time, the domestic judicial systems in the former Yugoslavia were not able or willing to investigate and prosecute those most responsible,

–   having regard to the fact that the Tribunal has indicted 161 individuals, that it has completed proceedings against 116 accused, that currently numerous accused are at different stages of proceedings before the Tribunal, that only five accused remain in the pre-trial stage, awaiting the commencement of their trials, and that out of the indicted individuals only two of them, Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić, still remain at large(1) ,

–   having regard to resolutions S/RES/1503 (2003) and S/RES/1534 (2004) of the UN Security Council calling upon the Tribunal to take all possible measures to complete all its work by the end of 2010 ("the completion strategy"),

–   having regard to the fact that the dates envisaged in the completion strategy are target dates and not absolute deadlines,

–   having regard to the six-monthly assessments submitted by the President and Prosecutor of the Tribunal, pursuant to paragraph 6 of UN Security Council resolution S/RES/1534 (2004), on the progress made towards implementation of the completion strategy,

–   having regard to resolution A/RES/63/256 of the UN General Assembly, on a comprehensive proposal on appropriate incentives to retain staff of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, adopted by consensus on 23 December 2008,

–   having regard to the considerable and consistent support for the Tribunal and its work from the EU and its Member States,

–   having regard to the fact that full cooperation with the Tribunal has become a central benchmark in the EU's policy towards the countries of the Western Balkans,

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 January 2009 on Srebrenica(2) ,

–   having regard to Rules 114(3) and 83(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A6-0112/2009),

A.   whereas the Tribunal, situated in The Hague, and its work deserve the continuing full support of the EU and its Member States,

B.   whereas the Tribunal has delivered precedent-setting judgments on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and whereas it has already made a significant contribution to the process of reconciliation in the Western Balkans, thus contributing to the restoration and maintenance of peace in the region,

C.   whereas full cooperation with the Tribunal has been one of the strict conditions set by the EU in its contractual engagement with countries in the region,

D.   whereas the Tribunal has contributed to laying the foundations for new norms in conflict resolution and post-conflict development worldwide, has provided lessons for potential future ad hoc tribunals, and has shown that efficient and transparent international justice is possible, and whereas its contribution to the development of international criminal law is widely recognised,

E.   whereas some of the indictments, decisions and judgments issued by the Tribunal have been regarded as controversial in, and beyond, different parts of the Western Balkans; whereas valuable lessons can be learned from these reactions, which will form part of the legacy of the Tribunal, but whereas they also underscore the need for an Appeals Chamber as well as an outreach programme,

F.   whereas the Tribunal continues to conduct a wide range of outreach activities with the aim of bringing its work closer to the countries concerned, including facilitating the coverage of trials by the local media, direct community outreach by its officials on the ground and capacity-building efforts with national judicial institutions dealing with war crimes, as well as a number of projects that seek to identify best practices,

G.   whereas the above-mentioned UN Security Council resolutions S/RES/1503 (2003) and S/RES/1534 (2004) called on the Tribunal and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to complete all investigations by the end of 2004, all first-instance trials by the end of 2008, and all work by 2010; whereas, however, the Tribunal has indicated that it will be unable to complete the first-instance trials before late 2009, also because of the great number of appeals; whereas, therefore, a new decision of the UN Security Council is needed in order to extend the mandate of the Tribunal,

H.   whereas the Tribunal has taken the initiative of devising a plan which was endorsed by the UN Security Council in the above-mentioned resolutions and has become known as the "completion strategy", the purpose of which is to ensure that it concludes its mission successfully, in a timely way and in coordination with domestic legal systems in the countries concerned,

I.   whereas the plan consists of three phases and target dates for the completion of the Tribunal's mandate, and whereas the current goal is to complete all proceedings (trials and appeals) by 2011, with a slight spill-over into 2012; whereas, in order to achieve these results, the Tribunal is focussing on the most senior leaders suspected of being responsible for crimes committed within its jurisdiction, has transferred cases brought against intermediate and low-level accused to competent national jurisdictions, and has pursued joint trials of defendants, although care must be taken to ensure that joinder does not impinge on the rights of the accused; whereas national prosecutors and courts can and are also initiating and handling numerous cases themselves, but some national courts may be unable or unwilling to conduct criminal proceedings in accordance with international standards and norms of fair trial, and transfer to national courts has in some cases been met with resistance from victims and witnesses directly involved,

J.   whereas the three Trial Chambers and the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal have maintained full productivity and are hearing multi-accused cases; whereas the referral of cases to competent national jurisdictions has had a substantial impact on the overall workload of the Tribunal, but whereas factors beyond its control have caused certain delays and further unforeseen delays cannot be ruled out,

K.   whereas, too, the two remaining indictees, Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić, must be brought to justice, and whereas their apprehension will depend on the mandatory cooperation of States, pursuant to Article 29 of the Statute of the Tribunal, including in the search for and arrest and transfer of fugitives as well as the production of evidence located in, for example, domestic archives, and whereas the arrest and transfer of fugitive indictees and the production of evidence have not always been forthcoming,

L.   whereas Article 21 of the Statute of the Tribunal provides for the right of any accused person to be tried in his presence and whereas the Tribunal thus would not be able, even if it were in possession of abundant evidence, to proceed in absentia,

M.   whereas the commitment of the Tribunal to the expeditious completion of its mandate is recognised, but whereas the outstanding cases must be tried without being subject to unrealistic time pressures, since such pressures might prejudice the right of the accused to a fair trial; whereas no shortcuts can be taken that might further jeopardise the safety and wellbeing of victims and witnesses testifying before the Tribunal, and whereas the target date envisaged for the Tribunal's completion strategy cannot mean impunity for the two remaining fugitives or undue time pressures for the ongoing trials,

1.  Addresses the following recommendations to the Council:

   a) recalls the fact that one of the fundamental values reflected in the international community's decision to create the Tribunal was the quest for justice and the fight against impunity; while fully supportive of the work the Tribunal is doing, points out that this will not be fully achieved unless ongoing trials can be concluded without undue haste and the two remaining indictees, Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić, are brought to justice and tried;
   b) stresses that the quest for increased speed of proceedings should not be pursued at the expense of due process, and reiterates the now commonly shared view that the legacy of the Tribunal will be measured not only by whether it succeeds in judging those responsible for the most serious crimes falling under its jurisdiction but also by whether it does so in accordance with the strictest standards of fairness;
   c) stresses that the retention of highly qualified staff in the Tribunal is a critical factor for the successful completion of trials and appeals, and that the loss of the institutional specialised knowledge needed in order to complete remaining trials could be exacerbated by the timetable envisaged in the completion strategy; in this regard, welcomes the above-mentioned UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/63/256 allowing the Tribunal to offer contracts to staff in line with the completion strategy timescales and to explore non-monetary incentives designed to retain key staff;
   d) underlines the fact that, on the one hand, the date fixed for achievement of the completion strategy contributes to the productivity of the Tribunal, but that, on the other hand, if justice is to be done and the trial of Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić is to proceed, that date cannot in any way constitute a deadline for the activities of the Tribunal;
   e) therefore calls on the Council to examine as a matter of urgency whether a two-year extension of the mandate of the Tribunal should be envisaged and whether this would be sufficient, bearing in mind that any extension should be measured not solely in terms of time but against results, and to advance examination of these issues within the appropriate UN structures;
   f) calls on the Council to encourage the UN Security Council to commit itself to providing sufficient resources and support to the Tribunal through the general budget of the UN until the end of the Tribunal's mandate;
   g) urges the Council to continue to support the Tribunal's efforts to get the countries in question to enhance cooperation and expedite efforts to capture the two remaining indictees, thereby allowing the Tribunal to fulfil its mandate, as well as to clarify with the UN that it must be made very clear that the two remaining fugitives must be tried either by the Tribunal or by the residual mechanisms, therefore avoiding any suggestion of impunity;
   h) stresses that the key documents vital for the prosecution of General Ante Gotovina, Mladen Markać and Ivan Čermak should be handed over by the responsible authorities; stresses that recent calls made by the Tribunal's Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz for relevant missing documentation to be located and made available to the Tribunal should be complied with;
   i) points out that the EU should continue to stress that compliance with the Copenhagen criteria includes having in place a fully functioning judiciary, capable of prosecuting trials for breaches of humanitarian law, even when the framework of the Tribunal is no longer operational; calls on the Council to set forth clear norms for evaluating the performance of the judiciary in the countries of the Western Balkans after the Tribunal's term comes to an end, inter alia so as to ensure that conditions of imprisonment meet international standards and that sentences handed down by the Tribunal are adhered to, and calls on the EU to increase its support for domestic war crime investigations and trials, for example through the provision of assistance to law enforcement, judicial and prosecutorial authorities, including funding for training and witness protection;
   j) recognises that the pre-eminence of states remains a cornerstone of the international system, and points out that it is essential that the international community, too, support the development of domestic capacity in the Balkans so that the local courts can continue the work the Tribunal has started; supports the existing financing by the EU of, for example, outreach programmes under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights; in this context, calls on the Council to consider an increase in its support for the continuation strategy of the Tribunal, and calls for increased cooperation between the judicial and prosecutorial bodies in the Western Balkans, in particular in cases involving extradition and mutual legal assistance;
   k) notes that having a clear mechanism in place to deal with the Tribunal's residual functions once it has been wound down will be central to ensuring that its legacy is one which reinforces the principles that inspired its establishment;
   l) invites the Council to pursue without delay, within the appropriate UN structures, the procedures envisaged for a mechanism for dealing with the immediate and longer-term residual functions, concerning for example witness protection, protection from witness intimidation, contempt of court issues, reviews in the event of exculpatory evidence being received, monitoring of trials referred to the region (currently monitored by the Tribunal's Prosecution Service through the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)), conditions of imprisonment and issues relating to pardon or commutation of sentences, etc; suggests that a proposal be put to the UN Security Council for the possible setting-up of a joint office to deal with the future residual functions of the Tribunal and of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Special Court for Sierra Leone;
   m) reminds the Council that the EU should take a particular interest in securing the legacy of the Tribunal by ensuring that its archives are safely stored in a suitable secure location, possibly in the region of the Western Balkans, that they are as complete and as accessible as possible, and that documentation is accessible on the world-wide web; suggests that suitable guarantees of free access should also be given to all prosecutors and defence counsel and, after a suitable period of time, to historians and researchers;
   n) stresses that the legacy of the Tribunal should also be linked to the overall reconciliation process; in this context, calls on the Western Balkan states and the EU to support the work of non-governmental organisations and other institutions that aid victims, promote inter-ethnic dialogue and understanding, and aid the pursuit of truth and reconciliation;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this recommendation to the Council and, for information, to the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the United Nations Security Council and the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

(1) Letter from the President of the International Tribunal to the UN Security Council, S/2008/729, 24 November 2008.
(2) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2009)0028.

Last updated: 1 December 2009Legal notice