By: G. B.
From Monday to May 26th, Slovenia will host a diplomatic conference for the adoption of the Convention on Cooperation in the Prosecution of Genocide and Other Heinous Crimes. It is expected to adopt a convention that would fill legal gaps in the investigation and prosecution of the most serious international crimes, and which will be the first international treaty named after Ljubljana, STA reports. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the meeting will be the largest diplomatic conference under international law that Slovenia has hosted so far. About 250 experts in the field of international public and international criminal law from 79 countries will participate in it.
The initiative for the Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Other International Crimes (MLA Convention) was created after a meeting of experts organised by the Netherlands, Belgium, and Slovenia in November 2011 in The Hague. Argentina, Senegal, and Mongolia later joined the initiator countries. At the time, they warned in The Hague that there is a legal gap in mutual legal assistance and extradition between countries for national judgment regarding the aforementioned crimes. Given the nature of atrocities, in which suspects, victims, witnesses and evidence often cross national borders, it is crucial that effective international legal cooperation is ensured at the global level. Some existing international treaties already contain modern provisions on mutual legal assistance and extradition, but especially for lighter forms of criminal offences. The purpose of the MLA convention is the adoption of an international treaty that would establish similar interstate mechanisms for the investigation and prosecution of the most serious international crimes, reports STA.
The convention is supposed to help punish the perpetrators of genocidal acts
As Marko Rakovec, Director General of the Directorate for International Law, and Protection of Interests at the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained, in the prosecution of such crimes, cooperation between countries is essential and, consequently, a legal framework that would regulate this. “There is no such thing for now, so I see the MLA convention as the most important international treaty in the field of international criminal law, right after the Rome Statute,” he added. Therefore, the convention is aimed mainly at the primary responsibility of states for the prosecution of atrocities and the need to improve the effectiveness of investigations and their prosecution at the state level, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MZEZ) announced. The initiative otherwise operates as an independent process outside the framework of the United Nations. “The problem with this was mainly that international treaties in the UN are accepted by consensus. As long as some countries block the initiative, we know that we would not be able to make progress within the framework of the UN,” explained Rakovec.
Since the initiative is also not related to the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC), countries that are not parties to the Rome Statute can also accede to it. The convention is currently supported by 78 countries, including all EU member states. The key challenge in the adoption of the convention is whether the signatories will have to criminalise the aforementioned crimes in the way they are criminalised in the Rome Statute. “Despite the fact that some countries already criminalise these crimes, they criminalise them with their own definitions, which they adopted even before the Rome Statute,” Rakovec said, emphasising the importance of a uniform definition of crimes. At the conference in Ljubljana, they will also talk about details regarding mutual legal assistance, the definition of investigative units, extraditions, exchanges of evidence and the rights of victims, especially their right to reparation. As Rakovec also explained, the text of the convention is expected to be adopted at the conference, which will then be open for signature, and the acceptance ceremony will be held in The Hague. This will be followed by the ratification of the treaty by the signatory countries and when they notify the depositary that they have completed all internal legal procedures, they will officially become signatories to the MLA convention.
In Slovenia, the government has already accepted the initiative to sign the convention. The committee for foreign policy also got acquainted with it. Once the convention is signed, ratification in the National Assembly will follow. The Netherlands will be the depositary of the MLA Convention. “Since the negotiation conference will take place in Slovenia, the name of the convention will be the Ljubljana-Hague Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Other International Crimes,” Rakovec added.
The delegates will be addressed by a member of the legal successor of the Communist Party, which otherwise supported the declaration on the famine
Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon, Minister of Justice Dominika Švarc Pipan, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, Dutch Minister of Justice Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius and Kimberly Prost, ICC judge, will address the delegates at the opening of the conference on Monday. MZEZ expects that the conference in Ljubljana will successfully conclude with the adoption of the convention, and Rakovec is also convinced that Slovenia’s efforts will contribute to the success of its candidacy for a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. The cost of the entire conference is approximately 600,000 euros, with the Netherlands contributing 200,000 euros and Belgium 180,000 euros. The remaining amount will be settled by Slovenia. On the side-lines of the conference, on May 22nd, there will also be a commemoration of the eighth EU Day against Impunity with the central guest, the European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.
So much for the conference. At the same time, we should remind that only a day before, the parliamentary committee for foreign policy (OZP) supported the declaration on commemoration of the famine, the mass killing by hunger, in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933, with 13 votes in favour and one against. It will propose to the National Assembly, to adopt a declaration recognising the famine as genocide. Which is right. On March 31st, Jani Prednik and Borut Sajovic and the president of OZP Predrag Baković (SD) submitted the declaration proposal to the National Assembly on behalf of the SD and Svoboda parliamentary groups. MPs from the opposition SDS and NSi also expressed their support for it. Only Levica MP Matej T. Vatovec announced that he would vote against, namely because he believes that history should be left to historians. Ukrainians must be supported in a different way in their defence of their homeland, he said, highlighting the humanitarian and other aid provided to them by Slovenia. At the debate itself, only Franc Breznik (SDS) assessed that the important message of the declaration is that no crime ever expires, and that all communist crimes, including those in Slovenia, must be prosecuted in order to prevent them from happening again. Anže Logar (SDS), however, expressed the opinion that the declaration should be expanded by calling on Russia to officially recognise the famine and apologise for it. Matej Tonin (NSi) pointed out that so many people died in the famine only because of the political decision of the communist regime. The NSi parliamentary group also supported it in light of the current Russian aggression in Ukraine, he added.
So far, no perpetrator of communist genocide has been convicted in Slovenia
It is, of course, incredible how the rulers, in the face of an otherwise praiseworthy condemnation of the famine as genocide, and the organisation of a conference on genocide, behave differently. Slovenia will be commemorating the victims of the communist massacres of 1945 this month and the next, but at the national level these victims have still not been restored to their dignity. Also, in our country, none of the perpetrators of these massacres have ever been held criminally accountable. In the 1990s, within the framework of the parliament, the post-war massacres were discussed by the so-called Pučnik’s and Polajnar’s commission of inquiry, many complaints were filed, but always without an epilogue. The National Assembly, however, has never condemned communism as a totalitarian system – even when the European Parliament condemned all totalitarian systems within the framework of the Resolution on European Consciousness and Totalitarianism, the ruling majority forced the decision that the National Assembly should only get acquainted with it. SDS tried several times to get a vote on the adoption of the resolution, but always unsuccessfully.
From the ministers Tanja Fajon, the president of the legal successor of the KPS (who even personally paid her respects to the statue of the communist criminal Boris Kidrič) and Dominika Švarc Pipan, who recently embraced Zoran Janković in front of everyone, we would rightly expect that at the international conference in Ljubljana they would admit that Slovenia did nothing to punish the genocide because of the infected justice system. But we will wait for such a recognition in vain…