On Monday, 22 May, the first and last ICTY Registrars, Theodoor van Boven and John Hocking, told the story of the Tribunal “From Start to Finish” from their perspectives. The event was opened by ICTY President Carmel Agius and moderated by the ICTY Deputy Registrar Kate Mackintosh.
In his opening remarks, President Agius reflected on his own path to the ICTY, and said, “When an opportunity arose for me to become a Judge at the ICTY, I quickly accepted what I considered the chance of a lifetime. I would have never imagined, when I joined this Tribunal 16 years ago, that I would end up being the person entrusted to close down the first international criminal tribunal of the modern age. This journey has been as rewarding as it has been challenging and demanding.” He also commended Mr. van Boven and Mr. Hocking for “their commitment towards ensuring that international justice and the rule of law are upheld, and for their immeasurable contributions to the achievements of this Tribunal.”
In the dynamic discussion that followed, Mr. van Boven and Mr. Hocking spoke about personal and institutional journeys spanning from 1994 until the present. The two Registrars set the stage of the ICTY’s start recounting their arrival at the Tribunal. Mr. van Boven talked about his appointment in 1994, recalling that he had nothing to start with but the founding Security Council Resolution. Mr. Hocking described the immediate impact of hearing the testimony of a witness who was a victim of rape in his early days in the ICTY courtroom in 1997 and realising that the Tribunal was achieving something unprecedented.
They addressed the setting up of a defence system and witness protection and support, which would see the ICTY through its peak period of cases with 6 trials and 28 accused in a day, and beyond to the ICTY’s finish with the Completion Strategy and downsizing from 1,300 staff to zero at the end of this year.
In reflecting upon the ICTY’s legacy, Mr. van Boven spoke about the ICTY’s influence on international law and the discussions around the creation of the International Criminal Court, saying, “The ICTY opened up new avenues. At the Rome Conference on the establishment of the International Criminal Court, a number of important issues discussed were issues that were developed at the ICTY. For instance, the ICTY’s interpretation of the law, particularly international humanitarian law, has made an enormous contribution.”
Mr. Hocking highlighted the irreversible shift in accountability that the ICTY has brought about, “When Theo van Boven and the handful of people who were here to support him started at the ICTY, no one had ever known a world where there was such a thing as an international criminal tribunal like the ICTY. We now have interns who have never known a world without international criminal tribunals. I believe this is the profound impact of the ICTY – that after the ICTY there was no going back on the demand for justice.”
Theodoor van Boven served as the ICTY Registrar from February to December 1994 and headed the Netherlands delegation to the United Nations Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of an International Criminal Court in 1998. John Hocking has been the Registrar of the ICTY since May 2009, after having served as Deputy Registrar and as Senior Legal Officer in the Appeals Chamber. He joined the ICTY as a Legal Officer on the Čelebići trial in 1997.
“From Start to Finish” is part of the ICTY Legacy Dialogues. These events help ensure that the Tribunal’s contribution to accountability for international crimes endures long after its doors have closed.