BELGRADE – A trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) noted Tuesday that Serbia should urgently amend its legislation to comply with its international obligations, including fulfilment of an order to arrest and extradite Serbian Radical Party (SRS) officials Petar Jojic, Vjerica Radeta and Jovo Ostojic on contempt of court charges.

Serbia cannot point to its local legislation to justify non-compliance with international obligations – if the local legislation is not in compliance with international obligations, it must be amended urgently to guarantee compliance, the trial chamber in the case said in a decision ordering Serbia to meet the obligation of cooperating with the tribunal.

Following a notification of May 18 that a preliminary proceedings judge of the High Court in Belgrade had concluded that, under the Serbian law on cooperation with the tribunal, no conditions were in place to arrest and extradite the SRS officials, Serbia has not indicated how the decision would affect its obligation of cooperating with the tribunal, the trial chamber said.

The Higher Court decided Serbia was legally obliged to extradite only individuals accused of the most serious war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, which is not the case with the SRS officials, charged with contempt of court and witness tampering in the trial of party leader Vojislav Seselj.

Analysing Article 29 of the tribunal’s statute, the trial chamber concluded Serbia was obliged to cooperate on any request for assistance, including cases of contempt of court.

Even though its statute does not establish contempt of court as a crime, the tribunal’s practice strongly establishes that its authority also extends to contempt of court to prevent the tribunal’s role from being thwarted, the trial chamber said.