Assessing Twenty Years of the ICTY


The United Nations established the Tribunal in 1993 to break the institutional impunity of crimes committed against humanity in the midst of the Yugoslav Wars. While the Tribunal declares that in its twenty years it has "shown that an individual's senior position can no longer protect them from prosecution," the political consequences of each trial have created both positive and negative ripple effects in the region.

The Tribunal's self-proclaimed accomplishments revolve [PDF] around the theme of giving [PDF] victims a voice. For example, many indictments were issued in the midst of the Yugoslavian conflict against active leaders of the military, and they were predicated upon the accounts of recent concentration camp escapees. Likewise, the Tribunal issued indictments against commanders of military groups for permitting sexual violence against women, and the trials included evidence from recent survivors. The court's concurrent existence with the conflict gave escapees and refugees a unique opportunity to immediately report crimes to the international community, instead of waiting for peace. This real-time opportunity stood in stark contrast to the post-World War II Nuremberg trials, in which some indictments occurred several years after the alleged crimes.

Despite its proactiveness in seeking justice during the conflict, the Tribunal has often been criticized for being politically biased. In 2008, Marko Attila Hoare of Kings College published a report showing that 68% of the indictments were brought against Serbians, while only 32% were issued against members of all other non-Serbian ethnicities collectively. In 2012, Serbian leader Vojislav Seselj reignited this theme when he claimed that the court was biased and had no jurisdiction over him. Danish judge Frederik Harhoff was removed from the Tribunal in 2013 after writing a letter in support of Seselj's allegations.

The Tribunal will resolve its initial trials by 2014 and appeals by 2015. After that, all residual proceedings will be transferred to a different court issued by the UN Security Council.


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