BELGRADE — With the ratification of the treaty establishing the permanent International Criminal Court taking place today, a glimpse of what the future under the new global legal system may look like may be found in Yugoslavia.
Last night, at 7:10 local time, in front of the main entrance to the Yugoslav Federal Parliament, former Serbian Police Minister Vlajko Stoiljkovic attempted to commit suicide. He did so as the second chamber of parliament ratified the “Law on the Cooperation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with the International Criminal Court,” the first chamber having passed it one day earlier.
The Yugoslav parliament is adopting the legislation under intense diplomatic pressure from the United States and the European Union.
Stoiljkovic was certain to be one of the first people extradited, and had said repeatedly that he would never allow himself to be taken to The Hague alive. Although doctors are keeping him alive in intensive care, some see Stoiljkovic’s act as a chilling portent of things to come.
While this new Yugoslav law specifically refers to “cooperation” with the ad hoc “Tribunal for War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia” established by a U.N. Security Council resolution in 1993, and not the permanent ICC, its modus operandi is expected by many legal scholars to serve as the model for the latter.
The Belgrade daily, Glas Javnosti, has published the draft of the law. Here is what some of its provisions say:
Article 1 Paragraph 2
- The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) shall respect and carry out the judicial decisions of the Tribunal and extend legal aid to its investigatory and judicial organs.
Article 4 Paragraph 1
- A demand for cooperation or the execution of the Tribunal’s decisions shall be accepted if they are based on the provisions of the Statute and Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the International Criminal Court.
Article 8 Paragraph 1
- The International Criminal Tribunal may open offices on the territory of the FRY.
- The investigative organs and the Tribunal’s prosecutor may, for the purposes of investigating criminal acts under its jurisdiction, undertake the following actions on the territory of the FRY:
1) collect information from its citizens;
2) question suspects, accused, victims, witnesses and court experts, including the performance of autopsies and exhumations;
3) collect material evidence;
4) view and transcribe legal documents, including those made or collected by Yugoslav judicial or other organs in connection with the violation of international humanitarian law.
Article 10 Paragraph 1 of the law states: “[T]he representatives of the Tribunal may not apply compulsory measures limiting the rights and liberties of the citizens of the FRY or other persons on its territory, nor act in violation of the standards of international law.”
However, Paragraph 2 leaves the provision that “if there arises a need for measures that limit the rights and liberties of citizens, the Tribunal’s investigative organs shall apply to the competent organs of the FRY for their execution.”
Article 13 Paragraph 3 contains a provision allowing double jeopardy:
- 3) Exceptionally, a criminal proceeding that has ended with a legal verdict shall be conceded to the Tribunal if the Tribunal’s demand calls for a repeating of the procedure before the Tribunal according to the provisions of Article 10 Paragraph 2 of the Tribunal’s Statute.
Article 15 demonstrates the absolute superiority of the Tribunal over domestic courts:
- 1) A criminal proceeding before a domestic court that is allowed to be conceded to the Tribunal, shall be stopped.
2) If such conceding to the Tribunal is allowed, and the subject of the proceeding before the domestic court is a criminal act not under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, the procedure before the domestic court shall be interrupted until the conclusion of the proceeding before the Tribunal.
3) If the verdict of a court of the FRY regarding an act whose prosecution was conceded has become legal, the sentence shall not be executed, and if it is being executed, it shall be interrupted on the day the accused is turned over to the Tribunal.
Under Article 23:
- The organs of police shall arrest the accused without a court order if an arrest warrant has been issued against him by a competent domestic organ or the International Criminal Court.
Article 29 Paragraph 2
- The conditions for extradition have been fulfilled if it is determined that the said demand refers to a person against whom proceedings have been initiated, that an indictment according to Article 19 of the Tribunal’s Statute has been confirmed against the person in question, that it refers to an act also punishable by domestic law, and that it is a criminal act falling under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal (Articles 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Statute).
- 1) Upon demand from the Tribunal, the competent state organs of the FRY shall perform investigatory acts, collect the necessary data on the criminal act and their performer and other data relevant to the criminal proceeding, issue an arrest warrant, take witness protection measures, deliver calls and other written communication sent by the Tribunal to persons residing in the FRY and perform other acts relevant to the procedure before the Tribunal.
2) The Tribunal’s representatives shall be allowed presence in the performance of the acts provided for in Paragraph 1 of this article, as well as be allowed to pose questions, make suggestions and perform other acts in connection with the proceeding.
- At the Tribunal’s request, the Federal Justice Ministry shall allow the transit of the accused, witnesses and other persons over the territory of the FRY.
- 1) The judges, prosecutor and registrar of the Tribunal enjoy the immunity and privileges accorded to diplomatic representatives serving in the FRY.
2) Employees of the Tribunal’s office and its other representatives enjoy the immunity and privileges recognized by international law.
The law about to be passed by the Yugoslav parliament is designed to be a political expedient, brought for the purposes of reducing U.S. and EU pressure on the country until a new constitutional law can be brought. (Last month, the EU brokered a deal by which the present Yugoslav federation has ceased to exist, to be replaced by a “loose confederation” made up of the country’s two republics, Serbia and Montenegro, whose name the new country will carry. A new “constitutional charter” is supposed to be completed by June of this year.)
In connection with this, the opposition Socialist and Serbian Radical parties argued during the parliamentary debate on the law that it was “unconstitutional” and that those that proposed it would “sooner or later” have to legally answer for it.
One of the members of the coalition that supports the law, the Socialist Peoples Party of Montenegro, which agreed to support the law only at the last minute under intensifying threats of new international economic sanctions against Yugoslavia, has stated openly that the law shall apply only to the 20 “suspects” for which indictments have already been issued, and that any further extraditions, barring a change in the constitution, would constitute a “serious violation of the law.”
On the other hand, Florence Hartman, spokeswoman for the Hague Chief Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, in an earlier interview with the Voice of America, declared that “the law was not necessary,” and that the Statute of the Tribunal was automatically superior to any national law.
Yugoslav Minister of Justice Vladan Batic confirmed that the “international community and The Hague are much more interested in effects than in our talk about laws. What is important is that extraditions take place.” He added that the extradition procedure should last 10-11 days “at most” following the law’s passage, which is when the first extraditions should be expected.
Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic has stated that he expects that this law has “fulfilled” the demands posed by the “international community” and “regulated” the country’s relations with the United States, whose Congress has conditioned further economic aid and support on “cooperation” with the Hague Tribunal.
At the same time, there are voices in the U.S. raising concern at the establishment of the permanent International Criminal Court.
The U.S. Ambassador for War Crimes, Pierre-Richard Prosper, who traveled to Belgrade last week in order to apply pressure on the Yugoslav government to “cooperate” with the ad hoc Hague Tribunal, has himself expressed grave reservations regarding the permanent ICC, stating last week that “the removing of signature [from the treaty], unsigning, is within the range of options that we are considering.”
However, according to its charter, the permanent ICC shall have jurisdiction over all the world’s nations, even those that haven’t signed or ratified the treaty that institutes it as a body of the United Nations. It shall initially try “war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” but the ability to continually amend its statute carries with it the potential for an indefinite expansion of the new International Criminal Court’s powers.
Aleksandar Pavic in Belgrade covers Yugoslavia for WorldNetDaily.com.