San Diego International Law Journal

Library of Congress Authority File


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In a 2005 press release by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”), Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte stated “[t]he debate on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia is not subsiding. It is present in the daily life and media, and always politicised . . . I am much more concerned about the victims of war crimes and their families, and I appeal to you to make the victim aspect of any legal process a priority.” Despite this stated dedication to war crimes victims and their families, the ICTY’s Trial Chamber (“Chamber”) recently acquitted two state security officials who organized and executed many crimes in Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Chamber affirmed and detailed the crimes, named the victims and the perpetrators, and specified the connections between the accused and the perpetrators. Then, however, it declined to convict Jovica Stanišic and Franko Simatovic, on the grounds that the evidence did not show that their support to criminals was “specifically directed towards the commission of the crimes[.]” The Chamber’s requirement that war criminals “specifically direct[] the commission of a crime” is an extremely narrow legal standard that threatens both the future of the ICTY as well as future ad hoc tribunals. With major war criminals indicted and awaiting trial, this decision threatens the ICTY’s legacy among international tribunals and brings into question the necessity of future ad hoc tribunals.