President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday in which she says that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia's (ICTY) acquittal of Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj is a dangerous precedent for armed conflicts in which there was an attempt to reach military objectives through genocide and ethnic cleansing, and that it has a negative impact on reconciliation in South East Europe, the president's office said on Tuesday.
The president says she is completely aware that the ICTY's trial chamber is independent in its proceedings and decision making and that this is a first instance judgement, rendered by a majority vote of the three-member trial chamber and subject to the final assessment of the Appeals Chamber.
She warns Ban about the possible damaging effects of the March 31 decision handed down in Seselj's absence, saying she is "deeply disappointed and concerned" with it.
"Nevertheless, Mr. Secretary-General, it is completely clear that this judgement is not only contrary to the foundations and purpose of the ICTY, which was established in 1993 pursuant to the UN Security Council Resolution 827, but is also deeply damaging to the process of establishing lasting reconciliation, as well as national and religious tolerance in the area of South East Europe," Grabar-Kitarovic said.
The letter was also forwarded to UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft and UN Security Council President Liu Jieyi. It will also be forwarded to UN member states as a General Assembly and Security Council document.
European Union and NATO ambassadors to Croatia were notified about the letter at the president's office today.
In the letter, she says the acquittal caused consternation among Croatia’s general public, and consequently a deep disappointment with the ICTY, which in this case proved to be "obviously nonresistant to the abuse of international public and criminal law. Furthermore, it will have a negative impact on peace, reconciliation and good neighbourly relations in the broader area of South East Europe and all crisis areas of the world. This first instance trial chamber judgement has deeply shaken the trust in the ICTY and the reasons why it was established by the UN Security Council."
During the war and the open aggression against Croatia in 1991, Croatia strongly supported and welcomed the establishment of the ICTY and from the very beginning emphasized its special importance and has cooperated with it sincerely and actively, the president wrote.
The ICTY and its work is of great significance for the overall development of international criminal justice, she wrote, adding, "This kind of a judgement sets a negative precedent whose consequences can go beyond the framework of the ICTY itself and contaminate the overall perception of the global public about the significance, scope and purpose of international criminal law."