21st Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 73rd Session

Preview Language:   English
17-Oct-2018 00:55:10
Residual mechanism crucial to preserve legacies of closed criminal tribunals for Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, speakers tell General Assembly at 21st plenary meeting.

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The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals is essential to ensuring that the legacies of the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals endure, the General Assembly heard today, as speakers considered the Mechanism’s first year as a “stand‑alone institution”.

Mechanism President Theodor Meron presented its activities, challenges, and achievements of the past year. Following the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in December 2017, and without the support of its predecessors, the Mechanism weathered unexpected budgetary and staffing constraints, he said.

Despite those challenges, the Mechanism made good progress providing protection and support for vulnerable victims, he said. The Mechanism’s Prosecutor has continued efforts to locate and arrest the remaining fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Mechanism.

“In many ways we have redoubled our efforts to improve operations, working methods, and procedures,” Mr. Meron said, stressing that the cooperation of Member States remains vital to ensuring that fugitives are brought to justice.

The legacy of these Tribunals is remarkable, he continued, calling the Tribunals “true pioneers, blazing a trail to ensure accountability” for violations of international law. The Tribunals for Rwanda and for the Former Yugoslavia were born of compelling demands for justice and accountability. They demonstrated the importance of fairness and due process. They brought into sharp focus the horrific atrocities committed during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and across the region of the former Yugoslavia during the terrible conflicts there.

In the ensuing discussion, several Member States noted that for the first time since its establishment, the Mechanism is carrying out the full range of functions entrusted to it without the support of its now‑closed predecessor Tribunals.

The representative of the European Union expressed concern over the Mechanism’s budgetary and staffing difficulties. He commended the Mechanism for carrying out its responsibilities and pledged the European Union’s support and commitment to helping it carry out its mandate.

Canada’s delegate, also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said that despite the many challenges, the Mechanism was able to achieve several goals, including the transfer of eight prisoners from a United Nations detention facility to the custody of national authorities. Negotiations for the transfer of the four remaining prisoners are at an advanced stage and are expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

“The pursuit for justice is not over,” the representative of the United States said, noting that eight Rwandans remain at large. The United States will not cease its search, she warned, expressing hope that efforts to collect intelligence and leads on the eight fugitives indicted by the Rwanda Tribunal will lead to their apprehension.

The representative of the Russian Federation, however, said he had a less “sunny” view of the Mechanism’s work. He expressed concern that the Mechanism was using “tricks and tactics” and following dubious practices regarding human resources management. The recent shuffling of judges has raised doubts of the Mechanism’s impartiality, he said, also expressing concern that the entity was conducting work in countries outside its mandate.

At the end of the meeting, the Assembly took note of the Mechanism’s sixth annual report, contained in a note of the Secretary‑General.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Peru, Mexico, Serbia and Turkey.

The General Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 18 October, to consider the impact of rapid technological change on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
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