Justice and accountability for war crimes committed in the
conflicts that occurred on the territory of the states of the former
Yugoslavia are essential to regional reconciliation. In light of
the Completion Strategy of the International Criminal Tribunal for
the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the states concerned have, since 2005,
borne the primary obligation to ensure accountability for both persons
and crimes not addressed by the ICTY. Co-operation between the states
concerned is essential to combat impunity.
Co-operation of third states is also needed, in particular
when war crime suspects are found on their territory. The European
Convention on Extradition and its three protocols articulate procedures
and standards for extradition requests. All member states have ratified
the convention, but not all have ratified the protocols. No observer
states have ratified either the convention or its protocols. The
convention’s general rule of compulsory extradition is subject to
significant exceptions and conditions, as well as numerous declarations
and reservations lodged by states.
The most frequent reason for rejection of extradition requests
for war crime suspects is the suspect’s citizenship. Reasons for
denial also include fair trial concerns, diplomatic immunity, refugee
status, concerns about discriminatory punishment and prosecution,
and lapse of time.
The number of extradition requests for war crime suspects
from the states of the former Yugoslavia will increase in the future,
raising additional questions about implementation of the convention
and its protocols. The Committee of Ministers should therefore ensure
that the above concerns be taken into account by Council of Europe
bodies engaged in revision of the convention, especially with regard
to co-operation with third countries and other international organisations.