First steps to transfers

14 March 2005 by HEIKELINA VERRIJN STUART

There is no doubt in the minds of donors backing the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY): all trials must be completed by 2008. The ICTY prosecutor has now seriously begun tackling the process of transferring cases to local courts, with 8 requests for transferral involving 16 accused submitted to the judges.

One motion for referral was issued even before the suspect Savo Todovic had arrived in The Hague. The very first transferral hearing took place on 17 February, and concerned the request to send the Croatian generals Rahim Ademi and Mirko Norac to Croatia. Under the presidency of Judge Orie the many uncertainties of the law and practice of war crimes trials in Croatia were scrutinized, with prosecutor Kenneth Scott expressing his ambivalence and the government representatives of Croatia promising "creative" solutions. There were lengthy technical discussions on the retrospective possibilities of command responsibility, the question of specific intent and of failure to act. The conclusion, given the pressure of the exit strategy, was that Croatia presented at least an appropriate basis for a fair trial. New judges have been appointed since the war and the Supreme Court has been highly critical of earlier politicised war crimes trials. Moreover, the ICTY prosecutor will be able to monitor the trial in Croatia, and if necessary could revoke the case to The Hague.

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