Statement by H. E. Mr. Ivan Šimonović, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Croatia to the United Nations, at the UN Security Council Open VTC on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT)
New York, 08 June 2020
I would like to thank the honorable President of the Residual Mechanism Judge Agius, as well as Prosecutor Brammertz, for their briefings today and for their recent reports.
Today the whole world is faced with unprecedented challenges caused by our joint enemy - COVID-19 pandemic, which already took many lives. We extend our sympathy for all victims of COVID-19 and their families. But with thoughts of them and of all others who are endangered by the pandemic and its consequences, it is our common responsibility that we never forget victims of brutal aggression in 1990s, including against Croatia, during which numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed. Unfortunately, after almost 30 years, a significant number of victims and their families still have not found long-awaited justice. Croatia therefore fully supports the Mechanism and its continued efforts to bring to justice the most prominent perpetrators of the horrible crimes committed during the 1990s on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The oncoming commemoration of the 25th anniversary of genocide in Srebrenica reminds us once more of the important and significant task and work it performs.
Croatia has good cooperation with the Mechanism and regularly answers to its requests for assistance, as it was the case with the Prosecutor′s requests in the case against Serbian nationals Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović.
Along with cooperation with the Mechanism, Croatia also gives a significant importance to the continuation of cooperation with other countries in the region in matters related to war crimes. However, constructive cooperation is possible only if all parties are willing and ready to actively and openly engage. In that respect, we appreciate positive developments in cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina, which resulted in the transfer of some cases to the Croatian judiciary, not all of them category II cases. Croatia hopes to achieve the same progress with Serbia in due time as well, because regrettably the current level of cooperation is not satisfactory. Croatia is still waiting for Serbia´s response to our invitation from September 2019 to the fourth and final round of negotiations which we hope would result with the finalization of the draft text of a bilateral agreement on processing war crimes.
Regarding cases currently before the Mechanism, fully aware of possible difficulties that COVID-19 pandemic might have caused to regular activities and work, we regret that the Mechanism will not be in position to conclude ongoing proceedings in the appeal case against Ratko Mladić and the trial case against Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović by the end of this year, as previously planned. We stress once again the importance of timely conclusion of all pending cases. This is of crucial importance in ensuring justice for victims, because delays always increase the risk that proceeding will not end with final judgement, as was the case with Slobodan Milošević. Therefore, we urge the Mechanism to increase its efforts in this regard.
Croatia welcomes Appeals Chamber decision in the contempt of court case against Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta from February 2020, which confirmed Serbia′s obligation to fulfill Mechanism′s order for the arrest and extradition of the accused. We would like to seize this opportunity to remind that full cooperation with the Mechanism is one of the conditions in Serbia′s negotiation process with the European Union and to call upon the Government of Serbia in this regard to respect and implement that decision.
Croatia strongly supports the EU aspirations of the Western Balkans countries, based on their full compliance with all established criteria, which include full cooperation with the Mechanism. In this regard we would like to remind that, under the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the EU – Western Balkans Zagreb Summit took place on 6 May 2020 via video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. EU leaders agreed on the Zagreb declaration, with which the Western Balkans partners have aligned themselves. In Zagreb declaration the EU once again reaffirmed its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans and the Western Balkans partners reiterated their commitment to the European perspective as their firm strategic choice. It is also clearly pointed out in the Declaration that the credibility of this commitment depends on the implementation of the necessary reforms.
Croatia welcomed the adoption of Council’s first-ever resolution on missing persons in armed conflicts in June last year, which reaffirms the obligations that flow from the international humanitarian law and human rights law on the subject. The issue of missing persons and shedding light on their fate remains one of our top priorities, and we continue to address it on every occasion. That is of regional and global significance and also provides greater chances for lasting reconciliation. To that end, the strengthening of cooperation among countries in the region is of the utmost importance, which includes the opening of all archives — something for which Serbia still does not show readiness. Some progress in this area has been achieved with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. We find the Mechanism to be well-placed to play a supportive role in that regard.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that Croatia will continue to support the Mechanism in its future activities.
I thank you.