8576th Security Council Meeting: International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals

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17-Jul-2019 02:32:47
Security Council delegates stress need to complete proceedings for atrocities committed in Rwanda, former Yugoslavia at 8576th meeting.

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Delegates today called on a United Nations war crime court to complete the remaining judicial proceedings for atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, as the Security Council heard briefings from top officials of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT).

“International criminal justice concerns us all, because justice is in the service of peace, and peace must be maintained on a daily basis,” said Carmel Agius, President of the Mechanism, which was established in 2010 to carry out the remaining essential functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia after their respective closures.

Since taking office in January, he said that he had sought the efficient and timely conclusion of the judicial proceedings at both the Arusha and The Hague branches of the Mechanism, enhancement of inter-branch coordination and harmonization of practices and procedures and creation of a working environment that encourages high staff morale and performance.

Serge Brammertz, the Mechanism’s Prosecutor, said the Appeals Chamber affirmed on 20 March the conviction of Radovan Karadžić, granted the Office’s appeal and entered a sentence of life imprisonment. “He has now been held accountable by an international court for his crimes,” he said, describing the case as a powerful example of the way that justice can prevail when the international community remains determined.

He said his Office has credible intelligence on the whereabouts of several of the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and has approached several Member States for their cooperation. However, several factors are having a negative impact on the Office’s work, he said, explaining that the challenges faced by his Office are in part symptomatic of a lack of capacity in terms of inter-State cooperation in criminal matters.

It also appears that some countries do not give priority to cooperating with the Office in bringing genocide fugitives to justice, he said, adding that only on 16 July did South Africa confirm that it is committed to cooperating in the case of a fugitive located on its territory.

Turning to national prosecutions, he said much remains to be done to achieve more justice for more victims, with Rwandan authorities still searching for more than 500 fugitives and thousands of cases awaiting processing in the former Yugoslavia. The Mechanism’s national counterparts need more support, assistance and advice to implement their national war crimes strategies, he said, adding that regional cooperation is another area where strengthened engagement can have an impact.

In the ensuing debate, Germany’s representative joined other delegations in voicing support for the Mechanism’s efforts to locate the eight Rwandan fugitives and called on States where those persons might now be living to step up efforts by their law enforcement authorities to arrest and surrender them. It is unlawful, as well as an unacceptable obstruction of justice, for Member States to refrain from cooperating with the Mechanism, he said, welcoming South Africa’s remarks and emphasizing that Council members must lead by example.

The United States offers $5 million for information that leads to the arrest of the eight fugitives, its delegate said, emphasizing that the burden to hold those responsible to account should not fall on victims, but on States. Her delegation welcomes South Africa’s stated intention to cooperate but wishes to see action. The Mechanism is a trailblazer and can transfer its experiences to national judicial authorities as the responsibility for accountability increasingly lies with them, she added.

The speaker from the Russian Federation, however, described the Mechanism as “in a state of permanent breach” of resolution 1966 (2010), recalling that 20 years ago, air forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched a military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, targeting homes, bridges and schools. Rather than investigate those crimes, it devised a myth about Belgrade being single-handedly responsible for the war in the Balkans, punishing Serbs while providing cover for others. That torch was taken up by the Residual Mechanism, with sentences accompanied by aggressive media campaigns, he said, referring to the Karadžić and Mladić cases.

The Minister for Justice of Serbia said that certain assertions in the latest progress report of the Mechanism Prosecutor to the Council are unfounded, including that “regional judicial cooperation in war crimes matters is not satisfactory”. On the contrary, compared to the previous reporting period, “that cooperation is much more extensive today”, she said.

Regarding the initiative of her country to have its nationals serve their Tribunal sentences in Serbia, she said that reintegration, after their release, would be difficult if they serve their sentences in faraway countries, reiterating a call for the Secretary-General to have the Mechanism review its existing practices on this matter.

Croatia’s delegate expressed regret that the Appeals Chamber did not establish the responsibility of Mr. Karadžić for genocide elsewhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the appeals process, his involvement in a comprehensive joint criminal exercise in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be linked to the political and military leadership of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Slobodan Milošević, she said.

The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina underscored the importance of consistent cooperation between the Office of the Prosecutor and the relevant authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. “More justice means more trust and stability within Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region of the Western Balkans,” he said.

Rwanda’s delegate described the Mechanism’s performance as poor, expressing hope for improvement and more meaningful cooperation going forward while calling on Member States hosting genocide fugitives to cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor.

Also speaking today were representatives of Peru, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Indonesia, Poland, South Africa, Kuwait, Belgium, United Kingdom, China, Dominican Republic and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:35 p.m.

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