Three new war crimes trials to begin at Hague Tribunal

 

The Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal will shift into top gear tomorrow as three trials begin on the same day for the first time in its history.

The UN General Assembly in June elected 27 "ad litem" or standby judges from across the world to the eight-year-old International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia.

The first six of those judges, five of them women, were sworn in last week and will make their Hague debuts tomorrow at the three new trials. The tribunal has 14 permanent judges.

"The appointment of the ad litem judges is a significant turning point in that it will allow the trial chambers to double their judgement capacity to six simultaneous trials by the end of January 2002," tribunal President Claude Jorda said.

Mr Jorda said the arrival of the new judges was "timely considering the recent pace of arrests and surrenders."

Highest-profile of the tribunal's recent catches is Slobodan Milosevic, the ousted Yugoslav leader who was flown to The Hague in late June and is due to go on trial next year.

The seven whose trials start tomorrow may not be headline grabbers like Mr Milosevic. But the courtrooms will echo as never before with litanies of murder, torture and expulsions as prosecutors open three cases at once.

All the defendants face counts including crimes against humanity. All plead not guilty.