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Former Yugoslavia: Tribunal

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 7 May 1996

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What agency they consider should be responsible for protecting investigators working for the tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, the clearance of mines from areas being investigated, the prevention of attempted tampering with forensic evidence including suspected mass graves, and the arrest and detention of alleged offenders.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, the NATO-led implementation force is providing a secure environment in which the tribunal can work. IFOR supervises the clearance of mines prior to the arrival of a tribunal investigation team. IFOR is providing aerial reconnaissance and foot patrols of suspected mass grave sites and will report any attempts to tamper with the graves to the tribunal. The tribunal has confirmed it will prosecute those wilfully destroying evidence of complicity.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the extension of IFOR' s terms of reference to cover these matters is most welcome? However, has she noted that Mr. Dusko Tadic today becomes the first person to go on trial for crimes against humanity since Nuremberg? Is this not rather as if Nuremberg had started without Goering or Ribbentrop being present? Does she agree with the comments of Senator George Mitchell that the single most important step to be taken towards achieving Dayton's aspirations is now the immediate apprehension of alleged war criminals? What steps will IFOR or the United Nations take to see that Mladic and Karadzic are brought to trial and that they do not remain in positions of power and influence within the Serb entity?

My Lords, the answer to the noble Lord's first question is yes. Of course we have all noted the first name to come before the tribunal today. So far as Mladic and Karadzic are concerned, it is very important that if there is evidence against them they will be brought before the tribunal. It is the responsibility of all states to arrest any individual indicted by the tribunal. That has been made absolutely clear to all those who might have contact with Mladic and Karadzic. IFOR will arrest and transfer to the tribunal any indicted persons whom it encounters. But I put the very points that the noble Lord is making to Bosnian Serbs last week and I have no doubt that I shall be doing the same tomorrow in Banja Luka.

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that at the time of the terrible massacres of the Moslem inhabitants of Srebrenica that city was a safe haven under the supposed protection of the United Nations? This is a matter which weighs heavily on many of us. I wonder whether she has any information about possible progress in bringing the perpetrators of those terrible atrocities to book?

My Lords, we were all aware that Srebrenica was termed a safe haven. But my noble friend may recall that at the time I expressed in this House and on platforms very grave doubts as to whether Srebrenica could actually be a safe haven given its location and given the disposition of forces at that time. Of course those who may have perished in Srebrenica by the hand of others need to be found, but my noble friend will recall that this area of the world has had a very cold winter, the ground has been rock solid and it is an area where the water table is extremely high, which has made investigation difficult up to now. We hope that investigations which take place may bring at least some success and some peace in knowing what has happened to the many, many missing persons in the area of Srebrenica.

My Lords, does the Minister agree with the UN appointed prosecutor, Judge Richard Goldstone, that unless more of the indicted war criminals are arrested and brought to justice the peace process will be threatened? It will do so because without justice there will be yet more cries for vengeance. Can she reassure the House that if more of these war criminals are not arrested the Government will take steps to persuade the international community to take further action beyond what she has described today?

My Lords, I can tell the noble Baroness that I agree with Judge Goldstone. Indictments against 57 individuals have already been announced. Of those 43 are Serbs, eight are Croats, three are Bosnians and three are of unknown ethnicity. I understand that two more Moslems have been arrested in recent days. That brings the Bosnian Moslem community in full compliance with the Dayton agreement. I willingly assure the noble Baroness that the Government will press for more to be done, but steady progress is now being made. We shall do all we can to help in this matter. I am glad to say that Judge Goldstone is very satisfied with the level of IFOR co-operation.

My Lords, did the noble Baroness say that she will be in Banja Luka tomorrow? If so, can she say what the responsibilities of the British forces would be in the Serb entity if their attention was drawn to the presence of either Mladic or Karadzic? Would they be charged with the duty of apprehending those persons and handing them over to the prosecutor? If not, how does she imagine that the Bosnian Serb entity can be persuaded to comply with the Dayton accords in good time for the elections in September, which obviously cannot be held while those two gentlemen occupy positions of power in the Serb entity?

My Lords, indeed I shall be in Banja Luka tomorrow. All mandated IFOR troops are required to arrest and transfer to the tribunal any indicted person whom they encounter. That is exactly what troops of any nationality serving with IFOR will do.