UNGA to hold public debate in wake of Hague ruling

NEW YORK -- The Hague Tribunal's decision to acquit former Croatian generals has dealt a blow to the UN, according to UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić.

Vuk Jeremić (FoNet, file)
Vuk Jeremić (FoNet, file)

On Friday, the Netherlands-based UN war crimes court set free Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač in an appeals process. The original ruling found them guilty of committing war crimes against their country's ethnic Serb population in 1995, and sentenced them to decades in prison.

In reaction to the acquittals, Jeremić announced that he had scheduled a public debate for April that will look into the issue of ad-hoc tribunals.

The debate that will take place at the United Nations General Assembly will address the role of such courts in achieving justice and reconciliation, he noted.

In a statement announcing the gathering, the former Serbian foreign minister added:

"The decision of the Appeals Chamber of the Hague Tribunal related to Operation Storm understandably caused indignation in many parts of the world. It is an undeniable fact that about a quarter of a million (ethnic) Serbs were driven out of their homes in the space of only several days, and that the court, set up to investigate such misdeeds, in effect decided that no one was guilty or responsible."

"This could lead to a conclusion that no crime in fact took place, which evidently stands in contrast with reality. I think that a full understanding of the work of the Hague Tribunal and its consequences must be accessible to the wide international public, so that history can have the final say, and so that it never happens anywhere again that evil deeds are pardoned and declared a virtue," added Jeremić.

He explained that it was for these reasons - and considering that the UN was the founder of ad-hoc courts - that he had decided to schedule the public debate, that discuss their performance and the level to which they fulfill their original purpose.

The debate will be open not only to states, but also to the academic community, distinguished individuals and civil associations, Jeremić said.

"It is my personal opinion that the decision of the Appeals Chamber of the Hague Tribunal has dealt a blow to the reputation of the United Nations, but I allow for the possibility that as a member of the nation whose expulsion was legalized by this act, I may be somewhat subjective on this issue. I am strongly convinced that reconciliation and a fresh start in relations between feuding nations cannot be based on denial and glorification of crime, because that essentially represents an incentive for crimes to be repeated," said the UNGA president.

Jeremić reacted very strongly to the news last week that the Hague Tribunal had set the Operation Storm generals free, and posting on his Twitter account also brought up the issue of organ trafficking in Kosovo, when Serb civilians were kidnapped by the ethnic Albanian KLA:

"Let those who agreed to EULEX investigating the organ trafficking in Kosovo think hard. The gentlemen will conclude that we removed our own organs."

Responding to criticism of his tweets, Jeremić noted that there was no reason for him to formulate his indignation over the "Hague justice" in politically correct language, and that instead of "resigning" - he meant to "deal damage to these international criminals that they did not expect".