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Lavrov says Yugoslav tribunal should be closed as soon as possible

April 01, 16:14 UTC+3
The Russian minister said there have been many examples when the tribunal showed its biased character "by covering up non-Serbian suspects in war crimes."
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International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague

© EPA/LEX VAN LIESHOUT

MOSCOW, April 1. /TASS/. Russia considers that the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is biased and politically motivated and calls for closing it as soon as possible, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks with his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic on Friday.

"We see great political nature and bias in the work of the ICTY. We call for closing it as soon as possible," Lavrov stressed. "Such decisions have been already taken. If there is a period during which there should be a residual mechanism but it should round off as soon as possible," he said.

Lavrov also said there have been many examples when the tribunal showed its biased character "by covering up non-Serbian suspects in war crimes." "I remember a case with one of Haradinaj brothers (Ramush Haradinaj, former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, acquitted on all charges by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in November 2012). When I served (as Russia’s Permanent Representative at UN in 1994-2004), NATO’s internal documents were distributed at UN Security Council that claimed that he is a war criminal, that he is guilty of war crimes. There was even this phrase - ‘he takes pleasure in killing people’. However, the tribunal acquitted him, and NATO shamefully declined to submit the information in their possession to the tribunal. There are multiple other cases when non-Serbs were acquitted though the most serious charges were brought against them," the foreign minister said.

"We see similar approaches to settling other aspects of the post-crisis situation on the Balkans," Lavrov went on. "Five-and-a-half years ago, a report of (former) MEP (member of European Parliament) Dick Marty was published where he lists instances of trading human organs of Kosovo Albanians and says that among people involved in this criminal network were also those who are currently serving at senior positions in Pristina," the foreign minister reminded. "Vuk Eremic, when serving as Serbia’s Foreign Minister (in 2007-2012) submitted proposals to UN Security Council on behalf of Serbia to establish something similar to an international tribunal to investigate such reports," he added.

"Back then, our Western partners were categorically against this. They blocked creating such a mechanism in UN Security Council. This was done by the same countries which several years later aggressively demanded to establish a tribunal for those found guilty of downing the Malaysian Boeing in Donbass," Lavrov said adding that "double standards can be seen very clearly here."

Dacic in turn said that ICTY has turned into an anti-Serb mock court, and Belgrade calls for closing it soon. "We share Russia’s opinion that ICTY needs to be closed as soon as possible. It did not contribute to the process of reconciliation. On the contrary, every new verdict fans hatred, and the sides start to argue on who is more guilty and who is less," Dacic noted.

The Serbian foreign minister said he is critical about the verdict delivered to former leader of Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic also noting recent acquittal of Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj. "It is hard for Serbs to believe that the tribunal makes positive decisions. Doubts arise on why it was all made, why they need to press for Seselj’s extradition, the extradition of his aides if they acquitted him in the end," Dacic said.

"This is an anti-Serb court. Conviction without proof," the Serbian foreign minister concluded.

Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday that The Hague Tribunal "failed to achieve its major goals - first of all work in the interests of reconciliation in the region (of former Yugoslavia)."

On Thursday, the International Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia acquitted Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj of all the counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity between 1991 and 1993 on the territory of Croatia, Serbia’s autonomous province Vojvodina and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Seselj voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY on February 24, 2003 and spent almost 12 years in a pre-trial detention center in The Hague. He was operated for colon cancer in the Netherlands and underwent a course of chemical therapy in December 2013. Doctors later discovered metastases in his liver. In November 2014, the ICTY temporarily released Seselj and let him return to Serbia for health reasons.

Vucic said the trial of Seselj "from the very beginning was clearly political, not judicial." The premier said he is not hostile to Seselj but opposes his policy. "This policy pushes Serbia into the past and instability, problems and economic troubles. This policy has isolated all of us in the Balkans and in Europe," he said.

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