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UN debates role of international criminal justice system

The UN General Assembly held its first debate [UN News Centre report] Wednesday on the "role of the international criminal justice system in reconciliation." The debate was orchestrated [organic letter, PDF] by General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic [official website] who claimed during the opening of the debate the "the paramount question is how international criminal justice can help reconcile former adversaries in post-conflict, transitioning societies." Jeremic, a Serb from the former Yugoslavia also claimed that "Reconciliation will come about when all the parties to a conflict are ready to speak the truth to each other. Honouring all the victims is at the heart of this endeavour. That is why it is so critically important to ensure atrocities are neither denied, nor bizarrely celebrated as national triumphs." Jeremic continued on to say that "Reconciliation is in its essence about the future, about making sure we do not allow yesterday's tragedies to circumscribe our ability to reach out to each other, and work together for a better, more inclusive tomorrow."

Despite the outward tone of unity coming from the debate, some have claimed that the real purpose of the debate was to serve as a criticism of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. The US, Canada and Jordan boycotted [NYT report] the session claiming it was a "thinly veiled" attack on criminal tribunals. In a statement from Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the US mission to the UN, the position of the US is that "ad hoc international criminal tribunals and other judicial institutions in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and Cambodia have been critical to ending impunity and helping these countries chart a new, more positive future." Pelton went on to claim the debate failed "to provide the victims of these atrocities an appropriate voice."

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