- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

The Bush administration yesterday called on the U.N. war-crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to stop wasting time and money and wrap up their work in six years.
"If left to their own devices, these two tribunals would drag on forever. Over the next few years, they will spend half a billion dollars," said one State Department official, on the condition of anonymity.
In public remarks on Capitol Hill, Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, was more diplomatic.
"The process at times has been costly, has lacked efficiency, has been too slow and has been too removed from the everyday experience of the people and the victims," Mr. Prosper said.
"There have been problems that challenge the integrity of the process," said Mr. Prosper, referring to reports of mismanagement and abuse, particularly at the Rwanda war-crimes tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania.
The administration's criticism of the tribunals set up by the United Nations to prosecute war crimes in Rwanda in 1994 and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s reflects a deep mistrust of multilateral justice systems.
The United States is opposed to a permanent U.N. international court, to be modeled on the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals. The Bush administration, like the Clinton administration, fears that a permanent tribunal would place U.S. peacekeeping troops at the mercy of frivolous and politically motivated charges.
"I have been asked whether September 11th has changed our views toward a permanent international criminal court. It has not," Mr. Prosper told the House International Relations Committee.
"As with the previous U.S. administration, we oppose the Rome treaty and will not send it to the United States Senate for advice and consent to ratification. We are steadfast in our belief that the United States cannot support a court that lacks the essential safeguards to avoid a politicization of justice."
The pending Rome treaty, which would set up a permanent international court in The Hague, was approved in 1999. By the end of this year, enough nations are expected to ratify the treaty to begin hearing cases.
Mr. Prosper said the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, which cost $100 million a year to operate, should prepare to shut down by 2008. But Mr. Prosper said that before the tribunals end, the two top Bosnian Serbs sought for war crimes former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and former Gen. Ratko Mladic must be taken into custody.
Lower-level criminals could be tried in domestic courts, with foreign assistance to improve the judicial systems, Mr. Prosper said.
"The United States stands prepared to assist the states in rebuilding their shattered judicial systems to make them capable of dispensing truth-based justice," he said.
The State Department official agreed: "We're looking for endgame for the tribunals. We think ultimately the best source of justice is in domestic courts."
"Regional governments say they want to take more responsibility," the official said. "[Yugoslavia's President Vojislav] Kostunica calls the courts biased and said he wants to take on more responsibility.
"But it can't happen until Mladic and Karadzic go to the Hague."
He said the push to end the tribunals in six years should give Mr. Kostunica the incentive to help capture the two suspects.
Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said in November she was starting to consider an "exit strategy" under which the tribunal would end in 2008.
To date, said Mr. Prosper, "at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, 117 have been indicted, 67 persons have been brought into custody, 26 have been convicted, 5 acquitted, 11 are currently standing trial, and one is awaiting the judgment of the court.
"At the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 76 have been indicted, 57 have been brought into custody, 8 have been convicted, one acquitted, and 17 are currently on trial."
"In the years ahead," he said, "the United States will continue to lead the fight to end impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes."


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