Diplomatic cables from the US embassy in the Hague corroborate the accusation recently put forward by the Danish judge Frederik Harhoff against the the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Theodor Meron. In a letter the Danish daily paper B.T. made public last week The Tribunal President is alleged to have served as a US puppet and for acquitting several war criminals.
Now documents from 2003 made public by WikiLeaks show that Meron had close and confidential relations with the United States government in his first term as President of the ICTY.
According to a cable Meron pushed the US to oppose a renewal of the mandate of the former Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte on allegations that she protracted court cases and thus put obstacles in the way of the US and Russia to complete the work of the Tribunal, which was established in 1993.
”Meron urged the United States government to oppose renewal and expressed reservations about a one year extension of her mandate,« according to the US Embassy cable.
In another cable the US embassy writes »Meron (is) the Tribunal's preeminent supporter of United States government efforts.«
»It is the perception among my former colleagues that the Tribunal President takes instructions from the US government. And the WikiLeaks documents certainly do not help his case,« a former legal adviser at the Tribunal said. Like several other sources with whom Information spoke this adviser did not want to speak for attribution.
In a private letter made public in the Copenhagen daily B.T. last Thursday, Harhoff claimed the recent acquittal of two Croatians and three Serbs is contrary to the previous standard, by which top commanders are held responsible for crimes committed by subordinates in the former Yugoslavia.
Moreover, Harhoff and several critics who prefer to remain anonymous, contend the Tribunal President has pushed for expediting the proceedings in the interests of saving resources and winding up the work of the 20-year long legal process.
Several experts in international law find this change of procedure problematic.
»I do not quarrel with the fact that these people were found not guilty. I quarrel with the legal standard coming out of these cases, because it is inconsistent with the theory of command responsibility that has been in effect since the Tokyo and Nürnberg trials,« said Gabor Rona, director of the international legal office at Human Rights First in New York.
Meron’s defenders concede the documents from WikiLeaks incriminate the President of ICTY.
»Yes, they could be seen as compromising, but I am not sure how relevant it is to view that he operates as a puppet,« said Kevin Jon Heller, Associate Professor at Melbourne Law School.
»The documents contain absolutely no proof that Meron took instructions from the US and Israel. The scandal is not Meron. The scandal is that a Danish Judge at the Tribunal puts forward unfounded rumors. Harhoff ought to be recused from the trial chamber in the Sesejl case, he is prone to convict ,« Heller said.
Information tried to get in touch with judge Meron for a comment, but he did not respond to emails.