Statement by H. E. Mr. Ivan Šimonović, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia to the United Nations, at the UN Security Council Debate on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT)
New York, 11 December 2019
I welcome the honorable President of the Residual Mechanism, Judge Agius, as well as Prosecutor Brammertz, and I thank them for their comprehensive briefings today, as well as for their Reports.
Let me start by reiterating Croatia’s full support for the mission and work of the Mechanism. Croatia remains to be strong supporter of international criminal justice. Croatia did its part in ensuring accountability. Many trials have been completed to date and some are still ongoing as our institutions continue to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed during the war in the 1990s.
When it comes to the Mechanism’s ongoing work, 2020 will be a significant year with the completion of important cases, in particular the appeal case against Ratko Mladić and the trial case against Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović. They are of the utmost importance to the legacy of accountability for aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last decade of twentieth century, especially because the crucial case against former Serbian president Slobodan Milošević unfortunately did not end up with the verdict. More than a quarter century after the establishment of the ICTY, thousands of victims and their loved ones are still waiting for justice to be served. We expect all of them to be completed within the planned deadlines, without any delays, and we encourage the Mechanism to maximize its efforts to that end. Also, we hope that the contempt of court proceedings against Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta will be soon resolved and we underline once again the need for Serbia to fully cooperate with the Mechanism.
Croatia is committed to continued constructive and effective judicial cooperation with other States of the region in war crime matters. We recognize the increasing urgency to end impunity and overcome the legacy of the past, including through justice for all victims of past atrocities. As the time passes, it becomes more and more difficult to hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes. But as we have said many times, meaningful cooperation is not a one-way process, and we expect from other States to show their willingness to actively engage and to contribute to improving relations. Croatia is continuously undertaking activities towards Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, with the aim of improving cooperation in the prosecution of war crimes. In the past two years, the Ministers of Justice of Croatia and Serbia have met several times and two joint commissions were established: one would work on bilateral agreement on cooperation regarding the prosecution of war crimes, and the other on the exchange of lists of persons accused or convicted of war crimes. The commissions did work, but without any recommendations yet. We express our hope that the commissions will resume their work shortly. Also, regarding Bosnia and Herzegovina, we expect improvement in the transfer of cases from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia.
Last month, Croatia marked another mournful anniversary of the tragedies and atrocities of war in the autumn of 1991. Besieged for three long months and levelled to the ground, the city of Vukovar and its inhabitants suffered a fate unseen in Europe since World War II up until that point. White crosses at the Vukovar cemetery stand today as a reminder of the massacre and for the victims exhumed from mass graves in and around the city. Few days before the anniversary, the memorial plaque commemorating the commander of Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serbian paramilitary forces during the attack on Vukovar was unveiled in a Serbian army complex in the city of Novi Sad. This is only one recent example that shows that Serbia unfortunately is still not willing to face with its own past and its role in the war it initiated in the 1990s. Such decisions and moves by Serbian authorities go against Croatia's efforts to build good neighborly relations and we call on Serbia to stop glorifying war crimes. Croatia stands ready to cooperate with its neighbors and assist them in overcoming the remaining obstacles in facing the past as a precondition for lasting peace and meaningful reconciliation.
The unresolved fate of missing persons is highly ranked on the list of our priorities. The suffering of the families of missing persons demands that of us and we are pursuing all our efforts in tracing and identifying the fate of our missing nationals or their remains. To this end, Croatia also holds dialogue with other states and international organizations, in hope of accomplishing results and every year headway is made. Unfortunately, Serbia still shows no readiness to open all its archives records. Political will should be shown in Belgrade and we call on the Serbian political leaders to focus on those efforts rather than divisive political rhetoric, which only perpetuates antagonism. The cooperation in addressing the issue of missing persons remains a key element of continued part of our dialogue and a part of the criteria Serbia needs to meet under in its EU accession negotiations. We are ready to continue dialogue that will produce tangible progress on this issue.
Croatia remains firmly committed to the development of good relations and cooperation with neighboring States, and we strongly support their aspirations towards European Union membership based on full compliance with a clear and well-known criteria, especially with regard to the rule of law, including full cooperation with the Mechanism. Our commitment to the European path of the whole Western Balkans region is visible through the priorities of the forthcoming Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first half of 2020. We will strive to keep the enlargement of the European Union as one of the key topics on the European agenda.
In conclusion, Mr. President, Croatia stands ready to continue to extend to the Mechanism our full support, expecting it to complete its mandate in time.
I thank you.