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, 08 June 2021

Mr. President,

I thank the honourable President of the Residual Mechanism Judge Agius, as well as Prosecutor Brammertz, for their briefings today and for their recent reports. I express my condolences to the family of Judge Kam.

Mr. President,

Croatia welcomes today's long awaited final judgement rendered by the Residual Mechanism, which confirmed the life imprisonment sentence against Ratko Mladić for atrocity crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Having in mind the gravest war crimes and crimes against humanity that were the subject matter of the indictment and various joint criminal enterprises in which Mladić participated in Bosnia and Herzegovina and having in mind that the tribunal established that genocide was committed in Srebrenica, this judgement is appropriate.

While the final judgement in the Mladić case brought a degree of relief to the families of his many victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including of the genocide in Srebrenica, we remind again that it was in Croatia where in 1991 he began his infamous warpath. Hundreds of his victims in Croatia never saw him stand trial for those crimes. What is more, they were never even included in his indictment, although Croatian authorities provided assistance to the ICTY Prosecutor's Office by meeting their requests in this case.

President Vučić pointed out that during the conflict in former Yugoslavia no one was an angel. I will not discuss here some cases that he mentioned: it is not time and the place. However, it is also quite clear who the Devil was. Milošević's death deprived us from the judgement that would provide for the framework of all individual atrocity crimes committed during the conflict in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Today's final judgement and the life sentence against the general Mladić, one of Milošević's most brutal henchman, cannot fill that void, but at least provides justice for some of their victims.

Mr. President,

Croatia pays great attention to the progress of all ongoing cases, in particular the trial case against Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović. We note the Mechanism’s efforts to minimise COVID-19 related delays of trials. Despite these efforts, the Mechanism regrettably was not in the position to conclude the Stanišić and Simatović case as previously planned. Therefore, we urge the Mechanism to increase its efforts to deliver its judgment by the end of this month as stated in the report we have before us. We have every confidence that the prosecution provided the Trial Chamber with enough evidence to determine beyond any doubt Stanišić and Simatović’s criminal responsibility for atrocity crimes committed in the armed conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as their role in the joint criminal enterprise. Since unfortunately Milošević case did not end with the verdict against him, it is very important that this case ends with a judgement that clearly demonstrates involvement of the top Serbian authorities in atrocity crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Mr. President,

Croatia remains firmly committed to the development of good relations and cooperation with neighbouring states, and we strongly support their aspirations towards European Union membership based on the full compliance with clear and well-known criteria, especially with regard to the rule of law, including full cooperation with the Mechanism. In order to persist on this path and deliver results, a strong political commitment is required, as well as a more decisive approach in processing war crimes.

In this regard, we remain very concerned with Serbia’s lack of cooperation with the Mechanism. Recently, the Single Judge issued the decision finding that Serbia has failed to comply with its obligations to arrest the accused Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta for contempt of the court and transfer them to the Mechanism. We underline the need for Serbia to fully cooperate with the Mechanism, including by fully accepting and implementing all of its rulings and decisions. Intimidation of witnesses is a serious crime that undermines accountability efforts and it should be treated as such.

We give a significant importance to the continuation of cooperation with other neighbouring states in matters related to war crimes. In that respect, we appreciate positive developments in cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia hopes to achieve the same progress with Serbia in due time as well. 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.

Mr. President,

Croatia continues to work to establish whereabouts of the remaining wartime missing persons. While thousands of cases have been resolved, the search for 1,864 missing Croatian citizens and their remains is ongoing, regardless of their ethnicity. We must remember that behind every number there is a person, and behind every person there is a story that deserves to be told in the hope it might contribute to the reconciliation efforts and the peaceful coexistence of people as well as provide comfort to the families of victims. To this end, Croatia holds dialogues with other states and international organizations, in hope of establishing whereabouts of missing persons. Unfortunately, Serbia still does not invest sufficient efforts to find the victims who went missing in the war. This issue was raised on every occasion with Serbia’s representatives.

In conclusion, Mr. President, let me reconfirm Croatia’s full support for the mission and work of the Mechanism. Croatia remains to be a strong supporter of international criminal justice, including this Mechanism as well as the International Criminal Court.

I thank you.