Chief UN warcrimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte hit out at international double standards, saying some serious crimes such as during the Israel-Lebanon were just simply being ignored.
"We are faced with conflicts where, according to credible reports, serious violations of international humanitarian law were committed, for instance during the recent Israel-Lebanon conflict, but no independent criminal investigation is taking place," she told a seminar of international prosecutors here.
"As lawyers, we have an obligation to ensure that the same rules apply everywhere. However, double standards exist today in the treatment of similar crimes," she argued at the two-day meeting in The Hague.
"While some crimes are being investigated and prosecuted fully by domestic or international judicial bodies, others are simply ignored."
Del Ponte, the Swiss chief prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), is known for her straight-talking often abrasive approach.
She was speaking in front of her colleagues such as the heads of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Hassan Jallow, and Christopher Staker from the UN-backed special court for Sierre Leone.
"As we speak, in vast parts of the world, 'double standards' has become a catchword being misused to foster extremism and violence," Del Ponte said.
"The ICC is the only place for the universal and consistent administration of criminal justice, and we must support efforts to build the ICC."
Del Ponte said that both the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia were "subjected to enormous political pressure to finish our task by 2010," the date set by the United Nations.
"It is likely that, next year, this political pressure will start translating into new financial constraints," she added.
However, with six warcrimes suspects including former Bosnian Serb military and political leaders Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadjic still on the run, it was "absolutely impossible" to close down the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Criminals "need to be prosecuted and brought to accountability, but that is not sufficient," said Prosecutor Jallow.
Prosecutor Staker said that setting up the UN-backed special court for Sierre Leone in Freetown had had a major impact on the population as it could now closely follow court proceedings.
But Del Ponte warned that justice was "not a medication for all that's going wrong in the world," underlining that investigation, prosecution, judgement and eventually imprisonment were important.
"If after (that) it has a positive effect on a territory ... I'm grateful, but it's not my task."
© Copyright 2006 AFP