The Republic of Serbia, President Mr. Tomislav Nikolic, UN General Assembly,Thematic Debate: Role of International Criminal Justice in Reconciliation

The Serbian president expressed the view that the ICTY, known as the Hague Tribunal, has done nothing to help but has rather only hindered the process of reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia.
 Republic of Serbia, President Mr. Tomislav Nikolic, UN General Assembly,Thematic Debate: Role of International Criminal Justice in Reconciliation
 Republic of Serbia, President Mr. Tomislav Nikolic, UN General Assembly,Thematic Debate: Role of International Criminal Justice in Reconciliation

“Serbia and I are ready not to wait for 70 more years to reconcile with the neighbors that we used to live with together in the same state or (to reconcile) with those, I mean to say Kosovo-Metohija, with whom we live in the same country today. I am deeply convinced that the Hague Tribunal has only done harm to this process and that it has probably caused an unnecessary delay that will be carried over to the next generation. The process has certainly and to a large extent been slowed down and made more difficult,” said the Serbian president. 
According to Nikolić, the tribunal is making one nation feel as being a victim of great injustice, while making another nation enjoy a feeling of great triumph. 

“From the standpoint of science and ethics, the Hague processes can be put on a par with the processes led by the Inquisition and with the Paris and Moscow Trials. 

The proceedings against Serbs are motivated by desires to punish and retaliate; and retaliation, particularly in contemporary law, can never be justified as righteous. The Hague procedures are characterized by a total lack of justice and fairness,” said the Serbian president. 

Speaking the first among a total of 50 member countries' representatives who have announced their participation in the debate, Nikolić said that all the penalties that have been voiced against Serbs at the ICTY put together amount to about 1,150 years, while the sentences against representatives of other nations for crimes against Serbs total 55 years. 

The president recalled that Croat generals Mladen Markač and Ante Gotovina were released despite the fact that Croatian troops expelled more than 300,000 Serbs from areas that have been inhabited by their ancestors for centuries. 

Also, more than 2,000 victims in Bratunac, Kravica and surrounding areas in eastern Bosnia, places of activity of the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) forces under the command of Naser Orić are still waiting to see at least some of the perpetrators receiving punishments, he added. 

Serbs from Kosovo-Metohija have been victims to organized kidnappings and removal of organs from their bodies, which were later sold on the black market. History did not see such crimes before. Instead of processing the crimes, the Hague tribunal has destroyed the evidence, said Nikolić. 

“Hundreds of thousands of exiled, and thousands of killed and kidnapped persons in Kosovo were not enough for The Hague tribunal to decide to punish the commanders and members of the so-called (Kosovo) Liberation Army; and not only that, since during the trial (of Ramush) Haradinaj, the tribunal allowed the accused to be involved in politics, which is an unprecedented move. What it actually allowed him to do is to eliminate and intimidate witnesses,” Nikolić added. 

Nikolić believes that the verdicts reached by the tribunal are making the Serbian people feel frustrated and depressed while creating the feelings of exultation and triumph among the Croats and Bosniaks. 

“It seems that for the greatest part ,The Hague trials will not be able to lead to a real and complete truth and therefore, any reconciliation will be an imposed and insincere one. 

You cannot be fair to some and unfair to others. Also, how to explain away the fact that almost nobody, except in one case in Bosnia and in one case in Kosovo, has been convicted of crimes against Serbs,” said Nikolić. 

Speaking at the thematic debate, entitled "Role of international criminal justice in reconciliation", which begun at the UN headquarters on the East River on Wednesday, and is being boycotted by the United states and ICTY representatives, Nikolić commented on the unwillingness of the tribunal's representatives to attend, observing that “if they did not respect the most ancient legal rule, "audiatur et altera pars'" (hear the other side too), how can we expect even a minimum of law and justice of them?” 

“The Hague tribunal has failed to meet that which they have proclaimed as their main goal - regional reconciliation; therefore, it (the ICTY) cannot be the future of international justice, but only its past and an ugly one at that. The only benefit derived from the existence of the Hague tribunal is that it has now become quite clear that the method of its creation and its entire work has shown that things should never be done in that way again,” he said. 

As an expression of support for the work of the International Court of Justice, as the sole instance to enforce international justice, and because of Serbia's desire to contribute to the proclaimed goals of the Hague tribunal, Nikolić described in detail what Serbia has done in its cooperation with the ICTY so far. 

Serbia has extradited 46 defendants, including two former presidents, government members, three chiefs of staff of its army and several police and army generals, including the director of intelligence service which, Nikolić says, has never been done by any other country. 

Also, he added, Serbia has “almost given up on its sovereignty,” relieving more than 750 witnesses from the obligation to safeguard state secrets. 

“Our cooperation with the Hague tribunal was our sincere desire to contribute to reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia, rather than a result of any kind of pressure. 

For that reason, and often threatening its national interests, Serbia has met almost all requests for assistance by the Hague prosecutor or defendants and not a single request to review its archives has been denied.” 

At the same time, he said, “in the activities of the Hague Tribunal, Serbs in general have rarely been noted as victims ... save only in a few instances: Haradin Bala was convicted for crimes against Serbs in Kosovo and received a sentence of 13 years in prison; Zdravko Mućić got 9 years, Hazim Delić 18 years and Esad Landžo 15 years in prison.” 

“These data may suggest a following conclusion: the perpetrators of war crimes on the territory of the former Yugoslavia are almost exclusively Serbs while, which is particularly interesting, there are almost no Serbs at all among the victims of the tragic wars. 

Someone is trying to establish the conclusion that the Serbian side alone was conducting killings and genocide in a bestial and orgiastic manner, while the other side sat on its hands, dealing with its daily routines and humanitarian work,” he said. 

Nikolić said that “it is not true that in this war that destroyed us all only one side was getting killed and the other side was doing the killings,” adding that “perhaps it was all prelude to the seizure of Kosovo-Metohija from Serbia, which we now see at work and in which the organization composed of the most modern and supposedly fairest countries is involved. 
Yes, but (it is) also (composed) of the most powerful countries, whose 'ranks' were deserted by justice.” 

“If a future researcher, a future historian, is to derive their conclusions about the war in Bosnia on the basis of the number of the accused and convicted Serbs, Croats and Muslims, he will only be able to conclude that the Serbs alone killed Croats and Muslims, that almost not a single Serb was murdered and that the Croats killed the Bosniaks here and there, while the Bosniaks killed almost not a single Croat. 
This is a striking reflection of the state of affairs when it comes to the tribunal's lack of objectivity and impartiality,” he said. 

When it comes to the ICTY processes, Nikolić gave special attention to the lack of equality between the prosecution and the defense, as “in all proceedings, the prosecutorial party has in every sense been the favored side, to the detriment of the defense of the defendant” when it comes to resources and access to media. 

Nikolić pointed to the case of Vojislav Šešelj as an example of the gravest violation of human rights of the accused, saying that the man “has spent almost full 11 years in prison before the trial against him even began, since the prosecutorial party was unable to obtain evidence for its pre-planned - read 'no evidence' involved - indictment, which is unprecedented in world history.” 

Nikolić also called on the tribunal and the UN to permit Serb prisoners to serve their sentences in Serbia. 

“The purpose of the punishments should not be retaliation. Enlightened nations have long ceased to think of punishment as a means of revenge... 
But, one of the purposes of punishment is resocialization of defendants. Not forgiveness, but rather, as far as possible, their return to normal life. 
Making one serve a sentence of imprisonment in a foreign country, away from one's family, in an unfamiliar neighborhood and lacking the knowledge of the local language, can hardly contribute to the goals noted." 

If Serbs who were convicted before the ICTY are allowed to serve their prison sentences in Serbia, Serbia can guarantee that these persons will receive no preferential treatment and that Serbia is willing to accept international supervision, Nikolić concluded.

Offical page of President Tomislav Nikolic

Source: B92

Thematic Debate on the Role of International Criminal Justice in Reconciliation

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