(New York) - The United Nations Security Council must adjust the deadlines to complete the work of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (ICTY and ICTR) if justice is to be done, Human Rights Watch urged today. U.N. member states have failed to meet their pledged financial commitments, leading to a hiring freeze at the tribunals.
According to current plans, the tribunals must end all investigations by 2004, all trials by 2008, and all appeals by 2010.
At a U.N. Security Council meeting today, the presidents and prosecutors of the two tribunals are due to report on the progress towards the completion of their work. Both tribunals currently lack funds to operate with full effectiveness because member states have failed to pay their assessed contributions.
"There is more than enough evidence for the Security Council to adjust the deadlines," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice program at Human Rights Watch. "U.N. member states should give the money they've pledged so the tribunals can finish the job."
The "completion strategies," originally proposed by the tribunals and endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, assumed that U. N. member states would cooperate fully in arresting indictees and turning over materials needed as evidence. However, Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Rwanda, have obstructed the tribunals' work.
Particularly since the 2003 parliamentary elections, the Belgrade government has blocked the arrest of Ratko Mladic and failed to hand over other senior indictees. For the ICTR, the dates of the "completion strategy" should be adjusted to allow the prosecutor time to investigate crimes attributed to the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA).
"Serbia has completely stonewalled requests for cooperation and Rwanda has delayed cooperation on requests for witnesses and documents," said Dicker. "Those indicted by the tribunals and still at large are playing a waiting game. The U.N. should not condone this obstruction of justice."
In a letter sent to Security Council members on June 24, 2004, Human Rights Watch called upon the Security Council to adjust the dates to allow the tribunals to fulfill their mandate.
Human Rights Watch urged the Security Council to call on all member states to meet their assessed payments to the tribunals and cooperate fully with the tribunals to bring fugitives to justice. In particular, the governments of Serbia and Montenegro and Rwanda should provide the tribunals with the materials they need and make concerted efforts to arrest indictees.