HC Deb 08 March 2004 vol 418 c1323W
Mr. Martyn Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the decision by the Serbian Government to try war crime suspects before domestic courts in Serbia. [159229]

Mr. MacShane

We welcome the establishment of a domestic war crimes court in Serbia. However, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) assessed that the Serbian national judiciary lacked the capacity to conduct fair war crimes trials in accordance with universally adopted standards. We welcome OSCE recommendations and urge the Serbian authorities to ensure effective domestic trials through adapting legislation and providing far the protection of victims and witnesses of war crimes. The first major trial, beginning in March, will be an important demonstration of the Serbian authorities' commitment to tackling war crimes allegedly committed by Serbian citizens. It is vital that the accused receive a fair trial and that justice is seen to be done.

The transfer of lower level war crimes suspects for trial in domestic courts is an important part of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Completion Strategy. However such transfers can only take place where the Tribunal is satisfied that the trials will be conducted in accordance with universally adopted standards. In order for ICTY cases to be transferred to a domestic tribunal, Serbia must first co-operate fully with the, ICTY and allow the domestic judiciary' to work independently and impartially.

We continue to urge the new Serbian government to fulfil the international obligation of full and complete co-operation with the ICTY. In order for Serbia and Montenegro to realise her European aspirations, Belgrade must assist in the apprehension and transfer of all ICTY indictees and allow the ICTY full access to documents and witnesses.

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