(E) U.S. lends support for Croatia to prosecute war crimes at home
U.S. lends support for Croatia to prosecute war crimes at home
By EUGENE BRCIC, Associated Press Writer , Wed Jul 10,
ZAGREB, Croatia - The United States voiced support Wednesday for the Croatian government's efforts to win the transfer of court cases pending against its nationals at the U.N. war crimes court back into the hands of its own justice authorities.
"We have agreed to work hand in hand to transition the justice issues back to Croatia," said Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. envoy for war crimes issues.
It was not immediately clear if and to what extent the American initiative was previously discussed with prosecutors in The Hague ( news - web sites), Netherlands, where the international tribunal is located.
It was set up in 1993 to prosecute suspects indicted for war crimes committed during the bloody wars following the gradual disintegration of former Yugoslavia starting in 1991.
The expression of U.S. support for the Croatian government in its struggle to prosecute its own war crimes suspects came only ten days after Washington made clear it does not want to recognize a newly established International Criminal Court, insisting on immunity for its own nationals.
The new international tribunal was established on July 1 to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in cases where countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice.
The U.S. defied international pressure and refused to ratify a treaty setting up the court, arguing that it would expose American soldiers, diplomats or others to politically motivated prosecution.
"The idea of an international criminal tribunal is a noble idea, but the problem we have with the ICC is that it is a process that is unchecked and does not have sufficient safeguards in place to ensure that it is a fair, credible and non-politicized process," Prosper said.
Although he did not specify, Prosper said that certain flaws in The Hague tribunal contributed to the U.S. decision to oppose the ICC.
"(There were) oversights that allow us to take a decision that we are taking today, to transition the justice back to the state, to work hand in hand with Croatia and to create the partnership that will bring the full sovereignty rights back to the country," Prosper said.
Two Croat army generals so far have been indicted in The Hague for atrocities against minority Serbs, while Croatian media have speculated that several other indictments are looming at the end of summer.
In a tangible sign of support, Prosper said a team of American experts would be dispatched this fall to Croatia to help the local justice system handle war crimes cases at home.
"The U.S. is pleased and satisfied with the level of cooperation Croatia has shown the tribunal," Prosper said. "We believe that Croatia has been a leader in the region and is well on the way toward putting the war crimes issue behind them."