Dáil Éireann - Volume 474 - 06 February, 1997

Other Questions. - War Criminals.

9. Mr. O'Malley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps, if any, he proposes to take to lead to the arrest of indicted war criminals in Bosnia and Serbia and their arraignment before the war crimes tribunal at The Hague, in view of the fact that after an interval of two years only a handful of such people have been arrested. [3338/97]

10. Mr. Molloy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason Ireland agreed with the recommendation from the Donors' Technical Conference held in Brussels on 9 and 10 January 1997 for the provision of an aid package [938] of a substantial amount to Serbia and to the Serbian regime in part of Bosnia in view of the failure of the Serbs to hand over any of their indicted war criminals, several of whom hold major public positions and senior positions in the Serbian police force. [3343/97]

Mr. Spring: I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 10 together.

As I explained in the House on many occasions, the Government is strongly committed to the full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina, an integral part of which is compliance by the parties involved with the orders of the international criminal tribunal, including handing over indicted suspects.

As Deputy O'Malley points out, only a very small number of indictees have so far appeared before the tribunal in The Hague. The vast majority of suspects remain at large, including some of those charged with the most serious and heinous crimes against humanity in recent times — people such as Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic who are accused of responsibility for massacring thousands of innocent civilians during the conflict in Bosnia. All those who have been indicted must appear before the tribunal if true peace and justice is to be established in the region. First and foremost, the responsibility for handing over suspects lies with the authorities of the territories where these people are residing. The majority, though not all of these, are in the Republica Srpska. Political and diplomatic pressure must be maintained on the Serbs to comply, both directly and through Belgrade. The Government fully supports all such efforts.

The Government fully and actively supports the work of the tribunal. This support is not only demonstrated in political and diplomatic terms but also in very practical ways. In this regard, in addition to previous voluntary contributions and payment of our annual assessed UN contribution for the running costs of the tribunal, the Government had, towards the end of last year, contributed a further $100,000 to assist the work of the tribunal. In international fora, including within the EU and at the London Peace Implementation Conference in December 1996, we have supported measures aimed at making greater resources available to the tribunal to enhance its investigative powers.

Ireland also fully supports the decision taken at the London conference to make the granting of economic reconstruction assistance conditional upon, inter alia, compliance with the orders of the international criminal tribunal. The meeting in Brussels on 9 and 10 January to which Deputy Molloy refers was a technical level meeting on reconstruction priorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was not a decision-making meeting. There was no question of any aid package for Serbia being discussed. In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Commission has, in broad terms, outlined the priority sectors identified for [939] reconstruction funding in 1997 and subsequent years. Funds are not being specifically earmarked for the Republica Srpska entity. Although projects have been identified and costed, the disbursement of funding is subject to political conditionality, and this has been made clear to the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including in the Republica Srpska. The European Union has fully endorsed the conclusions of the London conference which state that economic assistance will be conditional upon implementation of the peace agreement, including co-operation with the international criminal tribunal. This policy will determine how the European Commission disburses its funds.

Mr. R. Burke: As the Minister is aware, UN forces are deployed in Bosnia to ensure the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Will he agree it sends out a wrong message when these two very well known war criminals have not been arrested by the UN forces operating in the areas in which they reside? It is an example of international hypocrisy at its worst when people responsible for the massacre of thousands are allowed to remain free when troops acting on behalf of the UN Security Council could arrest them at any time.

Mr. Spring: Until people are brought before the tribunal and made to pay for their crimes it is difficult to see how we can resolve the ongoing conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. Our position on the matters raised by the Deputy is clear and unambiguous. We believe all indicted war suspects should appear before the international criminal tribunal in The Hague to face the charges against them. The tribunal's work has not achieved anything near what we would like to see achieved. To date it has indicted 74 persons, of whom seven are in custody and one has been sentenced to ten years in prison for war crimes relating to the mass execution of Muslim men in Srebenica.

The work must continue and we have been supportive in financial terms and otherwise in relation to its efforts. With our international partners we will continue to pressure the governments of the region to honour their commitments, in particular the Serbian President, Mr. Milosevic, who signed the Dayton agreement on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs. It has been made clear, particularly in the conclusions of the Paris meeting of the steering board and the London meeting, that the provision of international and economic reconstruction assistance to the parties is closely linked to their co-operation in this area. I hope the new Secretary General will give a fresh impetus to the work of the tribunal, not just in The Hague but in regard to other problems in central Africa also. I do not see this problem [940] being resolved or ended until people are brought before the tribunal.

Mr. R. Burke: The Tánaiste referred to the co-operation of Mr. Milosevic and others in the area. Surely it is time for the UN forces, operating under the UN Security Council mandate, to implement the indictments of the war crimes tribunal and detain these people. It is appeasement at its worst to allow these people reside in areas where UN forces are working on the ground. There is little point in appealing for co-operation from the likes of Milosevic when he has war criminals working in his administration in the Kosovo area.

Mr. Spring: The Deputy is aware that Ireland is not participating in SFOR, the continuation force to IFOR. We do not have any input into operational matters for that force or the force that will be deployed to follow it, the stabilisation force. The priority of the mandate of the stabilisation force is to ensure compliance with the military aspects of the peace agreements and, therefore, to ensure peace and stability in the region. Beyond that priority, the terms under which IFOR and now SFOR were established allow assistance for international organisations, including the criminal tribunal, in pursuing their objectives. Agreements have been made between the commander of IFOR and the chief prosecutor to the tribunal, within the limits of its mandate and resources, to provide assistance to the tribunal by protecting sites of interest to investigators. IFOR has stated that in the event of troops encountering suspects they will detain them and hand them over to The Hague tribunal. These commitments remain valid for SFOR, the successor force. It is ultimately the responsibility of the authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to ensure indicted persons are handed over to the tribunal. We will raise that matter at every opportunity with the authorities in the hope that the tribunal can get on with the work it has to do.

Mr. R. Burke: Words.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate