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Staff shortages burdening UN war crimes tribunals

The presidents of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Friday told the UN General Assembly [official websites] that the tribunals are in need of experienced staff to complete their work [UN News Centre report]. The presidents warned of the difficulties in retaining staff at the ICTY and the ICTR because both tribunals are nearing the end of their work and employees are leaving for more permanent jobs. ICTY Judge Patrick Robinson told the General Assembly that while the ICTY has made considerable progress in conducting the trials of war criminals, the process is greatly impeded by the "alarming rate" at which tribunal staff is resigning and the large burdens that are left for the remaining staff. ICTR Judge Khalida Rachid Khan also spoke the General Assembly of the challenges the ICTR faces with many of its employees leaving while also attempting to evade an "impunity gap." Khan reported that while the ICTR has tried and convicted many individuals, there is still unfinished work that must be completed to ensure that all war criminals are held accountable. The most critical issue remaining in the ICTR is the need to capture the nine remaining at-large fugitives, three of whom are among the most high-ranking accused, in order to send the message to the international community that "evading justice is not an option." The tribunal presidents proposed a retention incentive measure in an effort to maintain staff levels.

While each tribunal has successfully tried and convicted numbers of war criminals since its inception, there are still many key trials pending. Serbian general Ratko Mladic [ICTY backgrounder, JURIST news archive] is being held pending his trial at The Hague following his May arrest [JURIST report] after 16 years on the run. He is charged with committing war crimes during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive] and the Srebrenica massacre [JURIST news archive] where 8,000 people were killed. Croation Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic [ICTY backgrounder], who was arrested [JURIST report] in June, is also being held at The Hague pending his trial also on charges of war crimes committed during the Bosnian civil war and Srebrenica massacre. Rwandan genocide suspect and former Hutu militia leader Bernard Munyagishari is awaiting trial at the ICTR for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape. He is alleged to have recruited, trained and led a militia group that killed and raped Tutsi women during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive].

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