8278th Security Council Meeting: International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals

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06-Jun-2018 02:21:30
International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals standing on its own for first time, President Tells Security Council at 8278th meeting.

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Despite unprecedented and unexpected challenges due to resource constraints, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals had begun to stand on its own for the first time since its founding, its President, Theodor Meron, told the Security Council today.

He said that over the last several months, the Mechanism had taken on the full ambit of residual functions entrusted to it, but without the support of its two predecessors, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Significantly, the Mechanism had moved forward in carrying out its mandate, despite the rapid implementation of expenditure reductions, the deployment of staff‑downsizing measures and the deterioration of staff morale, he said, emphasizing that the present reporting period had been an arduous one in many respects. However, the Mechanism had demonstrated resilience and creativity, addressing new operational risks with resourcefulness and ingenuity while continuing to seek novel ways to enhance implementation of its mandate.

Also briefing the Council was Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, who highlighted that a recent evaluation of the Mechanism by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had concluded that it operated with a small staff and tight resources, as mandated by the Council. The Mechanism had been effective in planning, restructuring and refining its operational methods, although further efforts were needed to assess the effects of its high workload and organizational downsizing on staff morale.

Turning to the search for missing persons in the former Yugoslavia, he said that over the last six months, many stakeholders had sought assistance from his office, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Presidents of Croatia and Serbia, and the authorities tasked with locating missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Urgent efforts were needed to strengthen the search for missing persons, he emphasized, noting that 10,000 families — from all sides in the various Western Balkan conflicts during the 1990s — still did not know the fate of their loved ones. Underscoring the need for political will to create suitable conditions for witnesses to come forward with information, he described the search for missing persons as a humanitarian imperative, adding: “It is time for political authorities to be accountable for their commitments and to show the courage to put aside all other considerations.”

Croatia’s representative said the issue of missing persons was high on the agenda of his country’s Government, saying it was taking steps to account for persons who had perished or remained missing in order to provide their family members with information about their fates. However, Croatia was concerned that Serbia’s lack of cooperation with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was now being carried over to the Mechanism, underlining the need for that country to accept and implement its rulings and decisions in full.

Nela Kuburović, Serbia’s Minister for Justice, said her country’s Government continued to facilitate the Prosecutor’s access to all evidence, documents, archives and witnesses. He had requested 1,677 documents, and in response, Serbia had handed over hundreds of thousands of documents over a period of 20 years, but they had not been used in proceedings. Notwithstanding a promise to return unused documents, “that has not happened”, she noted.

Bosnia and Herzegovina remained committed to improving the efficiency of its domestic war crimes institutions, that country’s delegate said, calling attention to the national war crime strategy playing a crucial role in promoting reconciliation. The consistent cooperation among the Office of the Prosecutor and the relevant national authorities was crucial for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, he said, adding that his country remained committed to promoting stronger and more coordinated regional cooperation.

The Russian Federation’s representative, Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, saying that the memory of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had been tarnished by a selective approach to justice. The Mechanism had inherited the Tribunal’s flawed work methods, he said, citing the OIOS finding that it had perpetuated the latter’s personnel policy. Furthermore, friction between the leadership and staff had led to declining morale, a possibility about which the Russian Federation had warned two years ago, he recalled.

Rwanda’s delegate said the Mechanism was facing a credibility crisis with respect to the early release of convicted persons. Although Rwanda was not opposed to the principle of early release, it was extremely concerned by the lack of transparency and accountability in the process used by the Mechanism to consider and execute early releases, she emphasized. Those decisions had been made solely by the President of the Mechanism, whereas the Government of Rwanda and the associated victims and survivors had only learned about them through the media, she said, adding that, with one exception, the Government had been denied the opportunity to ask about the grounds on which requests for early release were lodged, considered and approved. A number of the convicts released before the end of their sentences had since regrouped and organized themselves into an association of genocide‑denialists, she said, adding: “They are free to undertake such criminal activities without fear of consequences because they were released with no [conditions].”

Other delegations echoed those concerns, including Ethiopia’s representative, who emphasized that consultation on early release between Rwanda and the Mechanism was vital, particularly in light of the potential impact of such decisions on the victims and the community at large. Equatorial Guinea’s representative noted that the early release of convicted persons implied that the seriousness of their crimes was being swept under the rug.

Meanwhile, the representative of the United States stressed that all States must make efforts to arrest the eight remaining fugitives indicted by the Rwanda Tribunal, reiterating his Government’s offer of $5 million for information leading to their arrest.

Also speaking today were representatives of Peru, United Kingdom, Côte d’Ivoire, France, China, Sweden, Kuwait, Netherlands, Poland, Bolivia and Kazakhstan.

The meeting began at 10:37 a.m. and ended at 1:02 p.m.
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