United Nations Committee of Experts (UNCOE)

International Information

International Operation Name: United Nations Committee of Experts

International Mission Name: United Nations Committee of Experts (UNCOE)

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name: Europe

Location: Former Yugoslavia

Mission Date: 6 October 1992 - 30 April 1994

Mission Mandate: To investigate and report on contraventions of the Geneva Convention and other international laws in the former Republic of Yugoslavia as authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 780 of 6 October 1992.

Mission/Operation Notes: In the summer of 1991 fighting broke out between Slovenian and federal Yugoslav forces – the first of a series of clashes that would lead to the collapse of the existing federal Yugoslav state. The fighting soon spread to the neighbouring breakaway republic of Croatia and, almost immediately, reports of atrocities began to surface. Such allegations would continue throughout the entire Yugoslav civil war.

Acting on these allegations, on October 6, 1992 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 780(1992), requesting the Secretary General to establish an impartial Commission of Experts (UNCOE) to provide its conclusions on the evidence of grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and other violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

On 23 October, the Secretary-General informed the Council that he had appointed a five-person commission. It commenced work early in November 1992 and carried out four main tasks: the examination and analysis of information obtained from various sources, identification of cases warranting in-depth investigation, verification of facts and considerations of issues of law.

Throughout the period of UNCOE's investigations, from October 1992 until April 1994, the Canadian Forces provided personnel under the designation Operation JUSTICE. CF legal officers and military police personnel, up to seven at a time, worked with UNCOE. On several occasions they formed a War Crimes Investigation Team for specific investigations such as, for example, an enquiry into a mass grave at Ovcara near Vukovar in March 1993.

For the year and a half that the commission operated, it collected thousands of pages of documentation as well as video information on allegations of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law, and created a database providing a comprehensive, record of all reported crimes. UNCOE's work came to an end on 30 April 1994 and, one month later, their Final Report was submitted to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague.

The work conducted by UNCOE was to lay the basis for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which was established by the United Nations Security Council in May of 1993 for the sole purpose of prosecuting persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.

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