Hague Tribunal

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Hague Tribunal

The Hague Tribunal was an Arbitration court established for the purpose of facilitating immediate recourse for the settlement of international disputes. As of 1993, the term is often used to refer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which has prose-cutorial and adjudicatory powers. Both entities are commonly referred to transitionally as the Hague Tribunal, although technically speaking, they are not the same.

The Hague Tribunal was established by the Hague Peace Conference in 1899 to provide a permanent court accessible at all times for the resolution of international differences. The court was granted jurisdiction over all arbitration cases, provided the parties thereto did not decide to institute a special tribunal. In addition, an international bureau was established to act as a registry for the tribunal and to serve as the channel of communications with respect to the meetings of the court.

The Hague Tribunal is considered permanent due to the fact that there is a permanent list of members from among whom the arbitrators are chosen. In 1907 at the Second Hague Conference it was provided that of the two arbitrators selected by each of the parties, only one could be a national of the state appointing him or her.

In 1993, the United Nations (UN) Security Council passed a resolution to establish within the Hague, Netherlands, an ad hoc international 14-judge court expressly mandated to prosecute and adjudicate War Crimes, Genocide, and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. This International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is often referred to as the Hague Tribunal. (Subsequent resolutions have increased the court to 16 members as well as a special force of ad litem judges.) The tribunal is composed of three chambers and an appeal chamber. Judges are elected by the UN Assembly but are nominated for four-year terms by their respective countries.

The UN Security Council also chooses a prosecutor who, in the name of the tribunal, brings indictments. The tribunal has power to impose prison sentences up to life but has no power to impose the death penalty. Sentences meted by the tribunal are served in various prison systems of several nations with whom the tribunal has made formal arrangements. The tribunal has no policing power or police force and relies for these on the mandated cooperation of various states for arrests, documents, and compulsory producing of witnesses. It operates on an annual budget of approximately $100 million.

In its first ten years (1993–2003), the tribunal had indicted over 80 defendants (several in custody awaiting trial) and completed 34 trials, for which 29 persons were found guilty. (Of the 29 convictions, 18 were Serbs; nine were Croats; and two were Bosnian Muslims.) One of the more notorious defendants, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, faced 66 separate charges of grave crimes, including genocide and other atrocities allegedly involving Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, and Kosovo. His trial had been continuing for more than a year as of March 2003. Other completed trials included that of General Radislav Krystic, found guilty of genocide in the Srebrenica massacres of as many as 8,000 persons; Croatian General Tihomir Blaskic, found guilty of the massacre of villagers in Ahmici; and General Stanislav Galic, allegedly involved in the killing of civilians in Sarajevo. As of April 2003, two of the most wanted defendants remained at large: President Radovan Karadzic of the Bosnian Serb Republic, and Ratko Mladic, former commander of the Bosnian Serb army.

Further readings

"The Lesson of Slobodan Milosevic's Trial and Tribulation." 2003. Economist 366.

Wald, Patricia M. 2002. "Punishment of War Crimes by International Tribunals." Social Research 69.


Arbitration; International Court of Justice; International Law; Jurisdiction.

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