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The protection of witnesses as a cornerstone for justice and reconciliation in the Balkans

Motion for a resolution | Doc. 11522 | 31 January 2008

Mr John AUSTIN, United Kingdom ; Ms Meritxell BATET, Spain, SOC ; Ms Marie-Louise BEMELMANS-VIDEC, Netherlands, EPP/CD ; Mr József BERÉNYI, Slovak Republic ; Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, Latvia, SOC ; Mr Joseph COSTELLO, Ireland, SOC ; Mr Valeriy FEDOROV, Russian Federation, EDG ; Mr Jean-Charles GARDETTO, Monaco, EPP/CD ; Mr Dick MARTY, Switzerland, ALDE ; Mr Christos POURGOURIDES, Cyprus, EPP/CD ; Mr John PRESCOTT, United Kingdom, SOC ; Mr Kimmo SASI, Finland, EPP/CD ; Mr Yuri SHARANDIN, Russian Federation ; Mr Frans WEEKERS, Netherlands
Referred to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, for report: Reference No. 3431 (see 11th Sitting, 14 April 2008).

As pointed out by the Parliamentary Assembly in its Resolution 1564 (2007) on the prosecution of offences falling within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), “justice is an indispensable ingredient in the process of reconciliation for the victims, communities and countries concerned and that it is essential to resolutely fight impunity”.

The Assembly is aware that without the testimony of witnesses the ICTY would not have been able to give justice to thousands of people by sentencing some of the worst war criminals of the Milošević era. Nor would national courts be able to carry on this fundamental work of justice, which is necessary to pave the way for full reconciliation in the region.

The Assembly is therefore very concerned to note that, due to numerous threats, potential witnesses finally decide not to testify before the national courts of the countries concerned because they fear for their lives or those of their families. Improving the protection of witnesses at national level and co-ordination at regional level are crucial elements for the success of the work of justice and the authority of the law.

Furthermore, as already stated in Resolution 1564 (2007), the Assembly is convinced that, “considering the ICTY’s long-term (and moral) commitment towards its own witnesses, a residual mechanism, with a view to continuing to maintain witness protection after its mandate ends, should also be established”.

One should bear in mind that there is a certain urgency in this respect since testimonies– and with them a part of the truth – are lost forever when witnesses are no longer alive. Witnesses who stand up for truth and justice are owed reliable and durable protection.

The Assembly therefore resolves to study carefully the question of the protection of witnesses related to war crimes in the former Yugoslavia – both at national and at international level – and to take due account of the conclusions drawn in Mr Lloyd’s report on the prosecution of offences falling within the jurisdiction of the ICTY (Doc. 11281) in this task.