Jeremić: Pressure will not make me cancel debate

NEW YORK -- United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) President Vuk Jeremić has said that he expected pressure to cancel a debate on UN's ad-hoc tribunals.

Vuk Jeremić (file)
Vuk Jeremić (file)

"But it will go ahead regardless," he told Serbia's public broadcaster RTS late on Monday.

Jeremić announced the same day that he had scheduled the public debate on the role and performance of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and other ad-hoc tribunals set up by the UN.

"The initiative was mine and the responsibility lies with me. It lies with the UNGA president according to the UN Charter and the GA Rules of Procedure. But before making the formal decision, I consulted with senior state officials," the former Serbian foreign minister said.

Jeremić noted that there were many reactions to the Hague's acquittal of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač, which caused indignation in many parts of the world.

The pair were acquitted on appeal, after being found guilty of war crimes committed against Croatia's ethnic Serbs, and sentenced to several decades in prison in the first-instance ruling of the same court.

"My decision to use my authority as the UNGA president and call a public debate on the role and performance of international ad hoc tribunals set up by the UN has attracted a lot more attention here than there was before," said Jeremić.

He explained that a public debate is the strongest debate mechanism in the UNGA and that it needs to be prepared well, which is why it will not take place until April.

Jeremić expects there will be pressure to cancel the debate, but says he will not back down.

"This is not the first time I have faced such pressures. This is a matter of morality, history and justice, and there will be no backing down," said Jeremić, who has scheduled the public debate for April 10, 2013.

China and Russia "expectedly" on Tuesday supported Jeremić's initiative, Belgrade-based daily Danas is reporting, adding that the U.S., Britain and France are against.

"This debate is important so that nobody ever again feels that they may commit a crime if some power winks at them," Jeremić wrote on his Twitter account.

"All countries of the world, refugee associations and victims of Operation Storm" will be invited to participate, according to him.

Jeremić further noted that The Hague-based court "did not fulfill its purpose, because reconciliation among nations cannot be based on denial and glorification of crime."

He also explained that as the UNGA president, he will decide on the list of participants in the debate, and pledged to do all in his power to make sure the gathering is "as open and as deep as possible".

Belgrade-based tabloid Blic noticed in its report on Tuesday that Jeremić chose April 10 as the date for the debate - which coincides with the anniversary of the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) - a Nazi-allied entity that existed during the Second World War.