NATO Parliamentary Assembly News

NATO Parliamentary Assembly News



  • BERLIN, 25 May 2008 – After 15 years, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) still has to complete the task assigned to it upon its establishment in 1993, before finally and completely shutting down, said Stéphane Bourgon, a defence lawyer at the ICTY, last Sunday during the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), in Berlin. “The main fugitives from the ICTY, Karadzic, Mladic, Zupljanin and Hadzic must still be arrested and appear before the Court before it closes its doors some time around the year 2010”, insisted Mr Bourgon, addressing the parliamentarians in the Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security.

    The former military and political leaders of the Serbs in Bosnia, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, are accused of being the men principally responsible for the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Stojan Zupljanin was a Bosnian Serb senior police official during the war which ravaged Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. Goran Hadzic was a Croatian Serb leader during the Serbo-Croatian war from 1991 to 1995. Responding to the Russian parliamentarian Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, who deprecated the fact that only Serbs had been indicted by the ICTY, Mr Bourgon said: “It is true that we prosecuted a large number of Serbs. Although crimes were perpetrated on both sides, we concentrated on those that committed the most serious crimes”. The ICTY was set up in 1993 to judge those with the highest degree of culpability for the war crimes committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It is planned that the ICTY should cease operating between 2010 and 2012, even if trials are still pending. “The best solution would be for the Security Council to prolong the life of the ICTY for a limited time and with a limited number of judges to avoid the idea that impunity is possible,” Mr Bourgon noted. If that route is not taken, recourse to the International Criminal Court (ICC) remains “a possibility,” even if at present that is not juridically possible, he remarked.

    The speaker then went on to discuss the successes and failures of the ICTY. Everyone now knows that international criminal justice is possible, he noted with satisfaction. To back up that idea, he gave some figures: since the creation of the ICTY, 161 persons have been indicted for serious violations of international humanitarian law on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, 48 of the accused are still undergoing trial, 113 trials have been concluded, with 9 acquittals, 55 persons sentenced and 19 persons having served their sentence. However, the ICTY has not succeeded in acting as a deterrent against crimes, noted Mr Bourgon with regret, recalling that the Court had not succeeding in setting up an accelerated procedure. He also listed some of the challenges facing international criminal justice. Firstly, the courts are under pressure owning to the excessive length of the trials. Thus there is a need to give consideration to shortening them, without thereby sacrificing the rights of all persons to have a fair trial. It is also necessary to bolster the trust of the military community in international criminal justice. Soldiers need to be aware that even in wartime, they must observe the rules. If they do not, prosecution will follow, said Mr Bourgon. Finally, he took the view that the revelations of the previous prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte, had come at an “inopportune” moment, as she had just ended her term of office. In a book which had come out in April, Ms Del Ponte, now the Swiss ambassador to Argentina, revealed that she had carried out investigations into allegations of trafficking in organs taken from the corpses of 300 prisoners in the hands of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 2003.


  • BERLIN, 26 May 2008 – The Afghan National army (ANA) needs a greater level of help from the international community if it is to be able to ensure the security of the country, said General Sher Mohammad Karimi, Head of Operations at the Afghan Ministry of Defence last Sunday, speaking at the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA). “Even with the coalition troops, Afghan army numbers remain far short of its strategic role (…) We cannot achieve security without additional forces,” said General Karimi, addressing the participants in the NATO PA’s Defence and Security Committee. “Meeting our national objective for a larger and wholly independent army will require additional funds from Afghan economic growth or from international community donors,” he added, drawing attention to the intention of his Government to increase the manpower of the ANA from 70,000 to 80,000 by the end of 2009.

    In his view, increasing the enrolment of the ANA will have to go hand-in-hand with a global threat analysis and with structural improvements within the army. He also stressed the need for all the forces on the ground to be better coordinated and to share information to a greater degree in order to improve the effectiveness of operations and reduce casualty levels. During his presentation, General Karimi also expressed disappointment that a significant share of the external resources provided to Afghanistan were sent directly to locations where projects were under way rather than being provided to the Government, which was best-placed to decide where aid would be beneficial to reconstruction. “There is poor utilization of the development assistance funds,” he observed. Moreover, the lack of multi-year planning of financial commitments on the part of the donors meant that it was not possible for the Government to plan for the future.

    The ANA and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – comprising 49,000 soldiers – have the task of ensuring the security of 32 million people over an area of 647,500 square kilometres. The objective is to reach a point at which the ANA will be able to carry out operations independently of the ISAF, whose role will then progressively change into one of advice and training. Responding to a question from the Dutch parliamentarian Tiny Kox on the outcome of the military campaign currently in progress, General Karimi said firmly: “I have not the least doubt that we will achieve a military victory.” The Head of the Delegation from the Afghan House of the People, Khalid Pashtoon, asked the speaker for his views on the establishment of a second military academy in the south of the country, where the principal language spoken is Pashto, by contrast with the north where the language most used is Dari. “There should indeed be an academy in Kandahar to train military personnel in their own language. This is a question to be resolved on the political level,” was General Karimi’s reply. With regard to the fight against narcotics, he pointed out that that task did not fall within the remit of the ANA but of the Afghan National Police. On the other hand, the army will be able to protect the police as it undertakes missions to destroy poppy crops. A specialist battalion will be ready to undertake such a mission in Helmand province as soon as it has received the necessary equipment, such as assault weapons and vehicles.

    For his part, Air Marshal Christopher Moran, Deputy Commander Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum, told the parliamentarians that NATO needed troop reinforcements because of the violent insurrection in the country, and in particular in the south. “We are short three infantry battalions if we are to secure the south,” he stressed. “We also have to reduce national caveats as far as possible,” he went on. Supporting the remarks of General Karimi, the Air Marshal stated that the international community should supply more funds so that the action undertaken could have concrete results on the ground, but also that the money should be initially supplied to, and pass through, the Afghan Government.

    Air Marshal Moran also announced that the ANA will begin taking control of the Kabul region in the coming August, the intention being to conclude this transfer of authority in early 2009. In his view, in order to develop the country, there are still other challenges to be overcome: better coordination of the organizations present on the ground (NATO, NGOs, UN), battling drugs and corruption, curbing the rate of unemployment (60%), reconciliation, and also the “food battle” (rising prices, poor harvests). While the Head of the Lithuanian Delegation, Rasa Jukneviciene, expressed her concern with regard to the increase in the number of civilians killed during operations, Air Marshal Moran insisted that NATO was doing its best to avoid this type of error. “The civilian victims are primarily the responsibility of the Taliban,” he explained.


  • BERLIN, 25 MAY, For the third time in a row, the session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly was a forum for discussion of the question of women within the armed forces. This lunchtime discussion was hosted by the Canadian Delegation to the NATO PA, this past Sunday, 25 May, and was attended by some sixty participants. Chaired by Senator Jane Cordy, the discussion had the aim of drawing the attention of the parliamentarians to the need to boost the presence of women on the front lines of peacekeeping missions. In the view of Charlotte Isaksson, a specialist in this issue in the Swedish army, taking gender into account is an essential step in the preparatory phase of any military deployment. Too many operations already under way lack an “overall vision” and the question of women is still very often neglected in the drawing up of operational plans. However in practice, the speaker observed that there was a more marked awareness in the chains of command of how essential it was to have women in the troops. Women obtain “better results” not only when talking to women and girls on the ground but also when dealing with the natural hostility of the local populations with regard to foreign armed troops. She cited the repeated calls by General Patrick Nash of Ireland, Commander of EUFOR Chad-CAR, for more women to be deployed on the ground. In the Congo as well, where Ms Isaksson was an adviser to EUFOR, the officers had come to realize the importance of a female presence within the armed forces. A large number of training exercises were organized and the number of female military personnel on the ground increased.

    The speaker stressed that, despite the ongoing shortfalls and thanks to these training exercises, senior officers have become aware of the implications of this issue and have acquired a better understanding of United Nations resolution 1325. It will be recalled that this resolution mentions explicitly the effects of armed conflicts on women and girls and highlights the importance of the participation of women in peace processes.

    Taking a pragmatic approach, Anja Ebnoether, Deputy Director at the DCAF (Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Geneva) presented a number of documents published by the DCAF, intended to improve understanding of the gender issue and to adapt this concept to each post-conflict situation. She also described the enormous difficulties encountered in recruiting women into the Afghan National Police and the efforts of the international community to resolve the problem. She called on the parliamentarians present to spare no effort to make their own assemblies aware of the need to establish policies within their country’s army on this issue. During the subsequent debate, reference was made to the difficulty of recruiting women, while at the same time attention was drawn to the efforts of Hungary, France and Spain, whose female enrolment numbers have doubled since the beginning of the millennium.

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is an interparliamentary organization, independent from NATO, which provides a link between NATO and the parliaments of its member countries. The Assembly also brings together legislators from NATO member and non-member countries to consider security-related issues of common interest and concern.