Global Policy Forum

Security Council Extends Tribunal Judge's Terms



By Simon Jennings

December 18, 2009
The Hague tribunal's founding body, the United Nations Security Council, has said this week that it plans to extend the contracts of the court's trial and appeals judges until 2012 - but, according to the tribunal's own estimates, such an extension would not be long enough for it to complete its work.

The contracts of 11 permanent and 19 temporary judges are due to expire at the end of December 2010, or at the end of the judges' current cases, whichever comes sooner.

In a resolution issued on December 16, the Security Council called on the court to bring its trials to a close but said it intends to let the tribunal's judges serve until December 2012 or until the completion of their cases, if sooner.

The Security Council also extended the terms of two judges who are currently preparing a judgement on a case but whose contracts were due to expire at the end of this month.

"Urging the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to take all possible measures to complete its work, the Security Council today allowed several judges to serve beyond the expiry of their term of office to enable them to complete work on cases in which they were involved," the Security Council said in a written statement.

The Security Council has asked the court's president, Judge Patrick Robinson, to submit the court's latest trial schedule and inform it which judges will require an extended term.

It will actually decide whether to grant the extensions by June 30, 2010. However, according to a Security Council spokesperson, the decision to extend has effectively already been made.

"The reason the Security Council, in its recent resolution, only 'expressed its intention' to vote on extending the judges is that the vote does not need to take place until mid-2010," Farqun Haq told IWPR.

"The Security Council will vote at that time but has already indicated as of this resolution that it will vote to extend the terms."

Although the court estimates that all but one of its trials will be completed by mid-2011, it says its appeals decisions will not be wrapped up until two to three years later, meaning the extension proposed by the Security Council this week will not be sufficient to see the court complete its work. The trial phase of the former Bosnian Serb president, Radovan Karadzic, is expected to last until 2012.

"We anticipate that all appeals will be completed in 2013, except for the Karadzic appeal, which is estimated at this time to be finished in February 2014," Robinson told the Security Council in an address on December 6.

"All possible measures will be taken to speed up our proceedings and shorten these anticipated times," Robinson added.

Karadzic's trial got underway on October 27 this year but was suspended until March 1, 2010 after the defendant failed to turn up to court. The delay is to allow Karadzic - who is representing himself in the proceedings - to be assigned a standby counsel who can then prepare the case to be ready for trial in the spring.

Asked to comment on this week's Security Council resolution, a tribunal spokesperson noted the support of the Security Council for the court's work and reiterated the tribunal's estimated completion dates of 2012 for its trials and 2014 for its appeals procedures.

The intention to extend the judges' terms of service comes after the court missed its original Security Council deadline set in 2003 to finish all first instance trials by the end of 2008 and all appeals proceedings by the end of 2010.

That deadline has not been extended, with the Security Council seemingly preferring to renew judges' contracts, something it has done twice before. According to observers, this is to keep up the pressure on the court to finish its work.

"The main reason why the [Security Council] makes these decisions is to put pressure on the tribunal to complete its cases as soon as possible," Sakib Softic, a Bosnian expert on international law, said.

But Softic said that the Security Council's latest extension of the judges' mandates should not be seen as final and the courts remaining two fugitives could still be brought to justice in The Hague.

"If [Ratko] Mladic and [Goran] Hadzic are arrested in the meantime, it doesn't mean that the [Security Council] could not extend the tribunal's mandate again, so that these two could be tried in The Hague," he said.

Nor has the Security Council itself ruled out further extensions to the court's work.

"The Security Council has repeatedly granted extensions to the ICTY after receiving updates on the tribunal's completion strategy, and if it feels that more time is needed, the Security Council has the power to grant further extensions," Haq told IWPR.

The remaining two tribunal fugitives are of the utmost concern to the court in considering its closing strategy, as Robinson told the Security Council earlier this month.

"One serious hurdle remains: the continued flight from justice of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic. If these two men are not brought to justice, it will tarnish the Security Council's historic contribution to peace-building in the former Yugoslavia," he said.

"It is not too late to arrest and try these fugitives, and I hope that the Security Council and member states will act decisively to achieve that goal."

A total of 24 defendants are currently on trial at the court, while a further 13 cases are in the appeals stage. Only one trial, that of former Bosnian Serb commander Zdravko Tolimir, is yet to start. Tolimir was the assistant commander for intelligence and security of the main staff of the Bosnian Serb army during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and is charged with genocide and other crimes in relation to the execution of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica in July 1995.

Tolimir was a top aide of Mladic during the war and was initially indicted in February 2005. He was due to stand trial alongside other senior military and police officials - known as the Srebrenica Seven - serving in the enclave whose trial is now nearing completion.

His case, however, was separated as he was not arrested until May 2007. His case was slated to begin on December 17 but has been delayed until February 2010 after judges allowed prosecutors to update the charges against him earlier this month.



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