Tribulations of the Tribunal

As UN War Crimes Tribunal faces cash shortage, Bosnia's Serbs appear to finesse Western pressure

CHERIF BASSIOUNI, one of three candidates nominated by the United Nations secretary-general to prosecute in the Bosnian War Crimes Tribunal, is warning that a lack of funding is jeopardizing the future of the court.

Mr. Bassiouni says such bureaucratic delays are his biggest concern because tangible evidence can disappear and victims become difficult to locate.

Bassiouni, a law professor at De Paul University in Chicago, also worries that the tribunal could be eliminated as a concession to one of the warring Bosnian factions in a political settlement.

"Nothing precludes the fact that if an agreement is reached politically in subsequent implementing agreements, in some way this ideal of justice could be compromised. We must be vigilant," says Bassiouni, who is also one of the members of the UN War Crimes Commission.

So far, Lord David Owen, the peace negotiator for the European Community, has refused to allow the tribunal to be discussed at the peace talks in Geneva.

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 827 on May 25, establishing the tribunal. Since then, appropriating funding for the it has been difficult.

Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali recently complained about the fiscal condition of the UN, and it is unclear how much money the tribunal will ultimately receive. Some lawyers estimate the court will need $30 million. Only $500,000 has been budgeted, Bassiouni says.

"There are ways to raise money," says Geraldine Ferraro, a former congresswoman and a member of an American Bar Association (ABA) task force making recommendations to the UN on the War Crimes Tribunal. She suggests that Congress, as well as other countries, contribute funds.

In addition, she believes there could be contributions from volunteer groups. The issue has a high priority with women's groups around the world since many of the cases will involve rape. "Women are outraged," Ms. Ferraro says.

Bassiouni has a group of 22 lawyers and law students, mostly volunteers, who are accumulating evidence in Chicago. They have in their data base 35,000 documents involving 25,000 victims, including 3,000 incidents of multiple victims. Unfortunately, Bassiouni says, a lot of the information will be difficult to introduce as evidence in a court of law.

"Most of the physical evidence is not documented," he explains. "The only thing left on a victim might be a scar which is not useful criminal evidence."

In daily briefings on Aug. 6 and 9, a spokesman for Mr. Boutros-Ghali denied any delays. On Aug. 3, 35 countries nominated justices. Those nominations have been forwarded to the Security Council, which is expected to reduce the list to between 22 and 33 potential judges. That list will be sent to the General Assembly, which will elect 11 judges during its present session.

At the same time, the secretary-general has sent the names of three candidates for prosecutor to the Security Council. The other two are Amos Waco, Kenya's attorney general, and a Scottish prosecutor delegated by Britain.

The UN is still negotiating with the Netherlands over convening the tribunal in The Hague. Once the location is set, the new judges will begin compiling rules of evidence and procedures. The ABA task force has recommended that due process rights be protected and that adequate protection be ensured for victims and witnesses.

"Since this is precedent setting we wanted there to be some procedural guarantees on how [Resolution 827] is implemented," says Monroe Leigh, a member of the ABA task force and a former legal adviser to the State Department.

Meanwhile, the Harvard Center for Constitutional Rights has brought a class action law suit in the Southern District Court in New York against Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs.

In September, the court is expected to rule on a motion by Ramsey Clark, Mr. Karadzic's attorney, to dismiss the charges. Mr. Clark, former attorney general under President Carter, has written two books on alleged United States war crimes during the Gulf war.

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