Remarks by Theodor Meron

By Meron, Theodor | Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

Remarks by Theodor Meron


Meron, Theodor, Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law


Thank you, Dean, for your kind remarks.

First, a few words about the role of the ICTY. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is, as you all know, the court of law established under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to address grave international crimes that took place in the Balkans in the 1990s. Its mandate, more specifically, is to bring to justice those individuals alleged to be responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia since 1991, and thus contribute to the restoration and maintenance of peace in the region.

The ICTY's indictments have charged 161 persons, including heads of state, prime ministers, army chiefs of staff, interior ministers, and many other high- and mid-level political, military, and police leaders from various parties to the Yugoslav conflicts.

Notably, as you all know, the ICTY was the first war crimes tribunal created by the United Nations and the first truly international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, which were founded in the wake of the Second World War and were, in effect, occupation courts.

The establishment of the ICTY and its sister tribunal, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in the early 1990s not only helped to lead the way for the establishment of a number of other ad hoc international criminal courts, but demonstrated that the international community was fully committed to ending the impunity for the gravest of international crimes by making international criminal justice a reality.

The ICTY and the ICTR were also an important catalyst for the adoption of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court.

In addition, the ICTY has contributed to the international legal system in a far more straightforward manner through its cases and its jurisprudence. In case after case, the Chambers of the ICTY have shown that it is possible and practical to apply international criminal and humanitarian law in actual cases, not just a few times, as in Nuremberg, but repeatedly and in ways consistent with fair trial principles. The ICTY Chambers have construed, clarified, and applied customary humanitarian law, helping to articulate and strengthen norms concerning the protection of civilians and modes of individual criminal responsibility and firmly rooting its jurisprudence in the principle of legality. No less important, the decisions and judgments of the ICTY have also addressed a wide variety of procedural and evidentiary issues by reference to international standards, thus creating--perhaps for the first time--an important corpus of procedural law to which both international courts and national jurisdiction may refer.

And even the factual determinations in the ICTY cases have contributed to the international legal system, as in the ICJ's ruling in the Genocide Case, where the ICJ's reliance on factual determinations by the ICTY in the Krstic case proved essential to the conclusions reached by the ICJ.

Finally, the ICTY has made, and continues to make, important contributions to the strengthening of competent national judicial systems and the rule of law in the region of the former Yugoslavia. Indeed, thanks in great part to the ICTY's initiative and the support of the international community, specialized mechanisms for war crimes prosecutions have now been established in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia, including the Special War Crimes Chamber in Sarajevo. Meanwhile, the training of legal professionals and witness support staff in the region by their ICTY counterparts has facilitated the implementation of international standards and best practices within the local judiciaries. These developments, while taking place on a national level, contribute in a meaningful way to global goals concerning the rule of the law.

I turn to the implications of collocation at The Hague of tribunals and dynamics among courts situated at The Hague.

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