|(E) Bush and tribunal in Wall Street Journal
|By Nenad N. Bach |
(E) Bush and tribunal in Wall Street Journal
Bush Seeks To Rein In U.N. Courts
U.S. Wants Timetable To Close Tribunals, Citing Some Abuses
By Jess BRAVIN
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
WASHINGTON-The Bush administration is seeking a firm timetable for shutting
down United Nations war crimes tribunals, saying they have been marred by
instances of mismanagement and abuse that "challenge the integrity of the
One U.N. court is trying Slobodan Milosevic and other alleged Yugoslav war
criminals, and another alleged Rwandan war criminals. The U.S. wants future
prosecutions handled by each country's own domestic justice system, as soon
as current high-profile cases are completed.
That view will be detailed today when the administration's top war-crimes
official testifies before a House committee hearing on the tribunals. The
U.S. position has escalated a conflict with its major allies, which favor
expanding the reach of international tribunals; they plan to expand the U.N.
's reach by replacing the ad hoc panels with a permanent International
Criminal Court for war crimes.
The divide existed before Sept. 11; Washington traditionally has resisted
international institutions that potentially might try to exercise
jurisdiction over the U.S.
But the difference has grown sharper following the terrorist attacks, with
the U.S. vigorously opposing any move that suggests -as some European
leaders have-that alleged perpetrators of international terrorism would best
be tried by international panels rather than in U.S. courts.
"We want to bring ownership of the process back to the people, .because that
is the only way the rule of law will become truly ingrained in a society,"
said Pierre-Richard. Prosper, the U.S. ambassador at large for war-crimes
issues. The U.S., he said, is prepared "to provide economic. technical,
legal and logistical support," to help improve domestic court systems, but
the amount has yet to be decided. Mr. Prosper is expected to testify today
before the House International Relations Committee.
While the current tribunals have done some good work, he said-and together
have indicted 193 suspects- "we don't want to create an environment where
there is a dependency on international institutions."
European officials said they don't understand why the Bush administration
is raising the rhetoric in the midst of the most notorious case since
Nuremburg: the trial of Mr. Milosevic for crimes against humanity while
serving as Serbia's president in the 1990s.
"Undermining the credibility of the U.N. tribunal when we are at the
pinnacle of its accomplishment is suicidal," said a European diplomat.
In November, the war crimes prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, told the U.N.
Security Council that she hoped to wrap up trials by 2007. But the Bush
administration believes that date can never be met if Ms. Ponte pursues
dozens of new investigations involving 150 additional suspects that she also
told the Security Council she intended to pursue.
"We want her to focus on the leaden. the architects, the kingpins" of
genocide, Mr. Prosper said, while prosecutions of "mid and lower level
players" should be delegated to national courts.
The turning point for U.S. officials may come if the two most wanted
fugitives, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, are turned over to the
tribunal. The two former Bosnian Serb leaders have been indicted on genocide
charges for the killings of Bosnian Muslims In the mid 1990s.
The Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals have moved too slowly, and have "been
too removed from everyday experiences of the people and the victims," Mr.
Prosper said. They have been costly, with annual budgets of $100 million
each, and have faced questions about "the integrity of the process," he
said. Earlier this month. the Rwanda tribunal dismissed a defense attorney,
after allegations he inflated his bills and split his fees with a defendant.
Similar problems have "plagued both tribunals," Mr. Prosper said.
While there have been problems, "people should keep in mind that the NATO
countries spent in one year [of military operations in Yugoslavia, 1999, the
equivalent of 200 years of the Yugoslav tribunal budget," said William Pace,
who heads the Coalition for an International Criminal Court, an advocacy
group that supports U.N. tribunals for war crimes.
The remedy advocated by the Bush administration is strengthening the
domestic justice system in Rwanda, Yugoslavia and other countries. In
Yugoslavia, that means building up conventional courts, while in Rwanda the
approach may involve using the country's traditional "gacaca" system, with
tribal elders dispensing justice to lower level perpetrators. "The penalty
may he, 'Now you need to give two cows, or you need to farm the land of
these people,' " said Mr. Prosper, a former assistant U.S. attorn ey who
himself led a successful prosecution for genocide at the Rwanda tribunal in
But most EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organization members are movingin the
opposite direction, by establishing the International Criminal Court. The
ICe treaty-signed by President Clinton in the last weeks of his term but
never sent to the Senate for approval - has been ratified by 52 countries.
including Britain, Canada and Germany. Should eight more follow, as
proportents expect this year. the ICC will begin operation in The Hague,
where Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals are based.
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