International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

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The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) (Full name: International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991), is the United Nations organization designed to bring justice to the former Yugoslavia. The tribunal is located in The Hague.


The tribunal was established by UN Security Council resolution 827. It was passed on 25 May 1993 in the face of the serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991, and as a response to the threat to international peace and security posed by those serious violations.[1]


The tribunal has the authority to prosecute and try four types of offences committed in the former Yugoslavia since 1991:

  • Grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
  • Violations of the laws or customs of war.
  • Genocide.
  • Crimes against humanity.

They only have the authority to try and prosecute individual people and not organizations, political parties or governments (ex. they cannot try "Serbia"). They can take over national investigations and proceedings if it is in the interest of international justice.[2]


The following is a list of accomplishments taken from the ICTY's official website [1]:

  • Spearheading the shift from impunity to accountability
  • Establishing the facts
  • Bringing justice to thousands of victims and giving them a voice
  • Strengthening the Rule of Law

Its accomplishments in international law include;

  • It has expanded upon the legal elements of the crime of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 by further defining the test of overall control, identifying the existence of an international armed conflict, and also the extended and exact definition of protected persons under the Conventions
  • It has narrowed the differences that are perceived between the laws or customs of war applicable in internal and in international conflicts, thus approaching both standards for the protection of individuals
  • It has identified a general prohibition of torture in international law which cannot be derogated from by a treaty, internal law or otherwise
  • It has made significant advances in international humanitarian law pertaining to the legal treatment and punishment of sexual violence in wartime
  • It has specified crucial elements of the crime of genocide, in particular the definition of the target of such crime, a group or part if a group of individuals
  • It has made several pivotal determinations with regard to crimes against humanity committed against civilians, in particular that this crime can be committed not only as part of, but also just during an armed conflict, thus identifying a wide scope of protection
  • It has specified the definitions of enslavement and persecution as parts of crimes against humanity, resulting in the first convictions after World War II for enslavement on the basis of a broadened definition
  • It has identified and applied the modern doctrine of criminal responsibility of superiors, so-called command responsibility, clarifying that a formal superior-subordinate relationship is not necessarily required for criminal responsibility
  • In the same vein, it has removed uncertainty about the level of knowledge to be expected from a superior, whose subordinates were about to commit crimes he did not prevent, or about crimes actually committed by them
  • It has made numerous contributions to procedural law issues, some of which are in the areas of protective measures for witnesses, the confidentiality and disclosure of information relevant for the national security of States, guilty pleas of accused, and duress as a defense
  • It was the first tribunal established under Chapter VII of the UN Charter as a measure to maintain international peace and security
  • It was the first truly international war crimes tribunal
  • It was the first international criminal court to enforce the existing body of international humanitarian law, and in particular judicially determine its customary law aspects
  • It has created an independent system of law, comprising of elements from adversarial and inquisitory criminal procedure traditions
  • It has established the most modern court facilities in the world, the layout and technical equipment of which will be copied and taken as a model in other modern courtrooms, for example the ICC and the Special Court for Sierra Leone
  • It has established, developed and maintained an effective victims and witnesses programme
  • It has established a unique legal aid system, and groomed a group of defense attorneys highly qualified to represent accused in war crimes proceedings
  • The Tribunal has created a Judicial Database of all its jurisprudence, soon to be available on the internet, providing access to a vast amount of decisions and orders in and international procedural and criminal law


The ICTY has received much criticism in its short years of existence[3][4][5][6]

Common criticisms include:

  • The failure of the tribunal to prosecute non-Serb offenders
  • The failure of the court to promote reconciliation, many view it as impeding reconciliation
  • The failure of the court to give trials of reasonable length
  • The failure to apprehend indictees, such as Ratko Mladic. However the court has no power to arrest individuals
  • The cost of sustaining the court


  3. The Hague Tribunal:The Political Economy of Sham Justice
  4. Jury Still Out on Tribunal's Success
  5. Lengthy Hague Trials Under Scrutiny
  6. The Hague Tribunal and Balkan Reconciliation.


Official Website