It was established by Resolution 827 of the UN Security Council, which was passed on May 25, 1993. It has jurisdiction over certain types of crime committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991: grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, violations of the laws or customs of war, genocide, and crime against humanity. It can try only individuals, not organizations or governments. The maximum sentence it can impose is life imprisonment. Various countries have signed agreements with the UN to carry out custodial sentences. The last indictment was issued March 15, 2004. It aims to complete all trials by the end of 2008 and all appeals by 2010.
The indictees ranged from common soldiers to generals and police commanders al the way to Prime Ministers. Slobodan Milošević was the first sitting head of state indicted for war crimes. Other "high level" indictees included Milan Babić, Croatian Serb prime minister of Republika Srpska Krajina; Ramush Haradinaj, Albanian prime minister of Kosovo; Radovan Karadžić, Montenegrin former President of Republika Srpska; and Ratko Mladić, Bosnian Serb army commander.