Former Yugoslavia:

War Crimes Tribunal's Workload Exceeds Capacity

NSIAD-98-134: Published: Jun 2, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the startup challenges the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia faced and the Tribunal's capacity to carry out its mandate.

GAO noted that: (1) the Tribunal met its early organizational challenges and has established the organizational structure and legal processes and procedures to investigate and prosecute war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia; (2) there are no precise measurement standards on the personnel levels or the amount of equipment and facilities the Tribunal needs to meet its workload, and the rate of surrender or apprehension is uncertain; (3) nonetheless, based on GAO's analysis of the Tribunal's primary functions, the Tribunal has insufficient investigators, judges, courtrooms, and information processors to carry out its existing workload while ensuring that it complies with its mandate, statute, and rules of procedure and evidence; (4) as a result, the Tribunal has suspended six investigations it planned for 1998, has a growing backlog of unread documentary evidence, and may be unable to try some accused in custody without undue delay; (5) in addition, on May 8, 1998, the Office of the Prosecuter announced the withdrawal of charges against 14 indicted individuals because, facing a much larger than anticipated workload, the Tribunal wanted to focus its available resources on persons holding higher levels of responsibility; (6) according to the President of the Tribunal and other experts, what constitutes undue delay is not specifically defined, but they believe the Tribunal's credibility and legitimacy may be jeopardized if it cannot bring accused in custody to trial within at least 2 years, although this time period may vary depending on the circumstances of each case; (7) the existing caseload exceeds the 18 persons in custody and 5 trials the Tribunal originally projected in its 1998 budget request, and GAO's analysis shows the Tribunal will need 3 years or more to try all accused currently in custody; (8) if more indictees are arrested or additional requirements arise, such as investigating recent incidents in Kosovo, the Tribunal's already overburdened capacity in key areas will be further strained; (9) GAO's analysis of the Tribunal's plans and available resources indicates that it does not have the capacity to handle its current workload, and the problem is likely to get worse; and (10) moreover, there are significant barriers that could inhibit efforts to quickly increase the Tribunal's capacity, such as the United Nations' lengthy recruitment process and its practice of assessing a surcharge for voluntary contributions.

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