UN plans war crimes court

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IN AN effort to advance the stalled United Nations peace plan for Bosnia, the Security Council is expected early next week to vote for the establishment of a Nuremberg-style tribunal to judge those accused of war crimes in the Balkan conflict.

It will be the first time such an internationally mandated body has been set up since the Allies created the Nuremberg tribunal to try top Nazi leaders after the Second World War.

The Security Council has been collecting reports of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, including beatings, rape, murder and 'ethnic cleansing', and the evidence indicates that all parties in the Bosnia conflict have been guilty. Observers say, however, that the overwhelming majority of the atrocities have been committed by local Serbian nationalists, or Serbia-based paramilitary units.

The idea of setting up such a tribunal was included in the UN- sponsored peace plan drawn up by Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance that is now entering a crucial make-or- break stage at the UN. Thus far, negotiations on the plan have been stalled, in part because Bosnia's Muslim-led government has wanted some assurances of redress for the crimes committed against its people. Setting up a tribunal might go some way to persuading the Bosnian government to come back to the negotiating table, diplomats feel.

In advance of next week's vote, the Security Council has reached agreement on a French draft proposal that recommends a 15-judge panel drawn from such bodies as the International Court of Justice in The Hague, plus a separate commission to identify the guilty and prosecute them. The court would be empowered to hand down prison sentences, but not the death penalty. The proposal also provides for trials in absentia.

The accused would not be permitted to enter a plea that they were carrying out the orders of their superiors. The Council's vote would ask the UN Secretary- General to set up the tribunal, and a further vote would be required for the court to start operating.

In a second move yesterday the Council voted to strengthen the 12,000-member UN peace-keeping force in Croatia. The resolution also demands the immediate resumption of humanitarian aid deliveries blocked by Muslims and Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the first time, the resolution says the entire UN peace-keeping force in Croatia and Bosnia is operating under the provision of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter that allows troops wearing the UN blue helmets to use force to carry out the resolutions of the Security Council.