Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute to the fine, effective work of the Coalition for International Justice as that organization closes its offices this Friday.
Ten years ago, the world allowed genocide to occur in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Shocked by this fact, as well as the associated war crimes and crimes against humanity, many Americans both within government and among the public decided to take action. As scenes of the destruction were broadcast to homes across this country, support grew for holding those responsible for the senseless killing accountable. Some dedicated experts in the field of international justice formed the Coalition, often known as “CIJ”, to help guide the development of the international tribunal established for that purpose.
While justice remains elusive, not just in the Balkans but elsewhere, the Coalition has been an indispensable part of the progress achieved in the last decade to hold more people accountable for horrible crimes, in Europe, Africa and elsewhere around the globe. The Coalition, in fact, argues not only for responding to crimes already committed but taking necessary actions to stop ongoing atrocities and to prevent future war crimes. This presents a challenge to the international community and its natural tendency to avoid taking bold and decisive action, and reflects the lessons learned from Rwanda that the international community cannot stand by as genocide occurs. I am extremely pleased that CIJ has taken a leadership role in galvanizing the international community to respond to the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
As the Ranking member of the Helsinki Commission, most of my work with the Coalition for International Justice has been related to what is unfortunately the still unresolved issue of obtaining Serbia’s full cooperation with the International Criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), located in The Hague. Despite the democratic ouster of Slobodan Milosevic in late 2000 and his transfer to The Hague in 2001, Belgrade’s cooperation with the tribunal has not been good. Despite Serbia’s own need to break with a horrible past, and despite the obvious need for surviving victims and families to have some closure, Serbian officials have largely responded only when pressure is applied. Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, perhaps the two people most directly responsible for the slaughter of thousands of innocent people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, remain at large. It has been clear for some time that Mr. Mladic has been protected by the military. Serbia’s future integration in Europe is placed at risk by this irresponsible behavior.
The Coalition for International Justice has been indispensable in tracking the developments of the tribunal, as well as following reports of where at-large indictees may be, as well as what access prosecutors have had to evidence and witnesses. The Coalition also has done excellent work in analyzing the work of the tribunal itself. This has been important.
International justice is a relatively new phenomenon, and things have not always developed smoothly. The Coalition has not been an apologist for ICTY or the other war crimes tribunals, and has brought attention to areas where improvement was needed. The Coalition should take great satisfaction that today, 10 years after genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the war crimes chamber of Bosnia’s court system now has the ability to handle the emotional and controversial cases from that dark time.
The staff of the Coalition for International Justice has always been outstanding, and has provided critical assistance to myself, my personal staff, and the Helsinki Commission staff that work on these issues. CIJ staff have been more than willing and able to help those of us in Congress who have worked to ensure common concerns about international justice are appropriately reflected in U.S. foreign policy. Board members Mark Ellis, John Heffernan and Jim Hooper were involved from the earliest days, when few were certain justice would even be considered in diplomatic efforts to bring peace and stability to the Balkans. Staff past and present, including Edgar Chen, Stefanie Frease and Eric Witte, provided expertise not only on the work of the tribunals but also on the countries and conflicts the tribunals were created to address. I want to highlight in particular Nina Bang-Jessen, CIJ’s Executive Director, who so effectively combined expertise and advocacy. She oversaw the Coalition as it broadened its focus to include not only the former Yugoslavia but Rwanda, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and today, Darfur.
Ongoing humanitarian catastrophes, Mr. Speaker, may frustrate us, but those who have worked at the Coalition for International Justice can take satisfaction knowing they did something about it and advanced the cause of international justice beyond where it otherwise would be. They have saved lives and brought war criminals to justice, and played a role in preventing future crimes against humanity. For that, we owe them our thanks and best wishes.