Brammertz: Serbia Made Constant Progress

Chief  UN War Crimes Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said on Thursday that Serbia has made “constant progress” in efforts to finalise cooperation with The Hague-based Tribunal, but the arrest of war crimes fugitives Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic remains the key issue.

Presenting his progress report on Serbia’s cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, to the UN Security Council Brammertz said he was in constant contact with authorities who are searching for the two fugitives.

“The arrest of Mladic and Hadzic remains a priority of my office,” Brammertz said, adding that Serbia is providing documents to the Court.

He said his office “recognises the professionalism and commitment of operational services tasked with the tracking of fugitives,” stressing that Serbia must continue in this vein with a clear aim to arrest the two.

The report is considered of crucial importance for Serbia’s EU aspirations. The country’s EU progress has been blocked by the Netherlands, whose government has stopped the unfreezing of a trade deal between Belgrade and the EU, pending the arrest of the two remaining fugitives.

Serbia welcomed Brammertz’s report.

“This is the most positive report which he has filed yet on Serbia’ Hague Tribunal cooperation, because it is the first one that states that the Tribunal prosecution is satisfied with the efforts that Serbia is putting into completing cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, and because this is the first report that does not have any objections to Serbia’s work,” said Rasim Ljajic, who coordinates cooperation with the Hague Tribunal in Serbia.

President Boris Tadic press service said the president considers the report to be very positive and objective. Tadic reaffirmed his government’s commitment to find, arrest and extradite to the Hague the remaining two fugitives.

The Netherlands hinted they may soften their position regarding Serbia and the EU following the report. “In the coming weeks, I will talk with my European colleagues about what this means for the decision that is to be made on Serbia’s European integration process,” Tanjug quoted Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen as saying

The Chief Prosecutor also provided an update on the status of trials and appeals, the cooperation between the Office of the Prosecutor and states, the capacity building efforts throughout the region of the former Yugoslavia, and plans to downsize his office in the next couple of years.

Hague Tribunal President Patrick Robinson told the UN Security Council session that failure to put the two indictees to trial would undermine the Tribunal’s contribution to justice. “It is not too late to arrest them and put them on trial,” he said.

He went on to say that all appeals proceedings in cases underway should be completed by the end of 2013, except in the Radovan Karadzic case, where the proceedings should end in February 2014.

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