The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Thursday marked [official materials] its official closure with with a ceremony held in the Hague. The event marked the end of the ICTY’s 24 year tenure trying those most responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws of war and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions [text, PDF] committed within the territory of the former Yugoslavia during the early 1990s.
Since its inception [JURIST news acrhive], the ICTY indicted 161 people [official materials], of which 90 were found guilty and sentenced and 19 acquitted. Over roughly 10,800 days of trial, the court heard from 4,650 witnesses and generated 2.5 million pages of transcripts. The cases against two prominent defendants, Radovan Karadžić and Vojislav Šešelj [JURIST news archives] are currently on appeal [official materials] before the residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals [official website].
In remarks [text] delivered at the ceremony, UN Secretary-General António Guterres [official website] called the establishment of the court “a ground-breaking moment,” and said that it “demonstrated a newfound and serious commitment by the international community that those responsible for perpetrating the most serious crimes of international concern should be held accountable for their actions.”
The tribunal was established by the UN Security Council [official website] on May 25, 1993 in Resolution 827 [text, PDF]. The ICTY was the first court established to deal with serious violations of international criminal law since the Nuremberg and Tokyo courts created by the Allies following World War II, and the first international court established by the UN. The Security Council established [S.Res. 995 text, PDF] the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official website] the following year to prosecute similar violations committed in that East African nation. These so-called ad hoc tribunals, created by the UNSC under it’s Chapter VII [text] authority to maintain peace and security with fixed temporal, geographical and subject matter jurisdiction, are the hallmarks of a particular era of international concern over mass atrocities. This wholly international approach was later supplanted by hybrid courts, such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official websites], that existed as a partnership between international authorities and local governments. The ratification of the Rome Statute [text] of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] effectively marked the end of the ad hoc era, with new genocide and crimes against humanities charges being brought in a permanent court with broader jurisdiction.