ICTY, justice against all

03 December 2007 by HEIKELINA VERRIJN STUART

From its very creation in May 1993, The Hague-based ICTY was branded the heir of the 1945 Nuremberg tribunal. But while the Nuremberg prosecutors had only Germans in the dock, this new UN court would make a point of not being victor's justice. With the UN Security Council mandate "to maintain and restore international peace and security" came the Tribunal's obligation to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by individuals on all sides of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. The ICTY has done this, but it has not avoided political justice.

The ICTY started investigations with the war in Bosnia raging. The ICTY's temporal jurisdiction, which runs from 1991, has no time limit (unlike the ICTR, which can only deal with crimes committed in 1994). The Tribunal became a live witness of the crimes it was to punish and the wars it was hoped it would help prevent. The ICTY had already been in existence for two years when 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica in July 1995 and when Croatia launched Operation Storm to regain territories lost to the Serbs in 1991. It was six years old and had delivered several judgments when war broke out in Kosovo. These events served to discredit the sales pitch that international justice would have a deterrent effect on war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Not victor's justice

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