19th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 74th Session

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23-Oct-2019 01:01:51
Residual mechanism making progress in remaining cases of closed criminal tribunals for Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia, speakers tell General Assembly at 19th plenary meeting.

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The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals is crucial to continue the vital legal work of bringing to justice the perpetrators of atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the General Assembly heard today, as speakers noted progress in the Mechanism’s second year of functioning.

President Carmel Agius presented the accomplishments and challenges of the past year for the residual court — established in 2010 to perform the remaining functions of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia following the completion of those courts' respective mandates. He urged all Governments to continue to support the Mechanism “so that we may together continue to ‘fight the good fight’ and to uphold the values that led to the establishment of the United Nations 74 years ago tomorrow.”

Taking over the presidency halfway through the year, Mr. Agius said he was able to lead the Mechanism to important successes. Since publishing its seventh annual report — which outlines the Mechanism’s activities from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019 — two major developments have occurred in the case of Prosecutor v. Augustin Ngirabatware. In addition, in the case of Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadžić, the Appeals Chamber delivered its judgment on 20 March 2019, signifying another important step towards the fulfilment of the Mechanism’s mandate.

Mr. Agius said the Mechanism’s push for efficiency has continued unabated. By the end of the year, the transition to the Unified Judicial Database is expected to be finalized, and the full record of judicial filings will be available through one database. A specialized Judicial Records and Court Operations Unit has been established. Anticipating an extremely busy upcoming year, the Mechanism will require the necessary resources to achieve its goal of issuing at least two major judgments in 2020, he added.

The Mechanism also continues to need Member States’ cooperation to track and arrest the remaining fugitives indicted by the Rwanda Tribunal, he said. A fugitive has been located in South Africa, but that Government’s authorities have yet to execute the Mechanism’s arrest warrant. “I urge every Member State to adhere to its international legal obligations and provide full cooperation to the Prosecutor in this regard,” he said.

When Member States took the floor, the observer for the European Union agreed and emphasized that all Member States are legally obliged to cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor in its efforts to locate and apprehend remaining fugitives. He welcomed the priorities established by President Agius in January, and the progress made in the Mladić appeal and the Stanišić & Simatović retrial proceedings, while voicing concern about budgetary constraints in 2020 as the Mechanism works to conclude both cases.

The representative of Australia, also speaking on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, commended the Mechanism’s commitment to concluding its remaining judicial work and fulfilling its mandate as efficiently and effectively as possible, while ensuring that fundamental procedural safeguards are met.

The representative of Rwanda said his Government continues to cooperate with the Mechanism and will continue to rely on the courts to help fight impunity and step up efforts to capture the remaining fugitives indicted by the Rwanda Tribunal.

The representative of Serbia said that her country has demonstrated a strong commitment to fulfilling its international obligations by continuing to give the Mechanism free access to all evidence, documents, archives and witnesses. The country’s judicial system has dramatically improved since the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the Government hopes that its cooperation with Croatia will improve to reach the high levels it maintains with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The representative of the United States said that the Mechanism has proven effective in holding people to account for the horrendous atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. The Appeals Chamber’s March 2019 decision imposing a life sentence on Radovan Karadžić demonstrated a firm commitment to justice. However, South Africa’s failure to cooperate with the Mechanism is disappointing, especially as that country is President of the Security Council this month.

In other matters, General Assembly Vice-President Martín García Moritán (Argentina) noted that Hitoshi Kozaki of Japan resigned from the United Nations Staff Pension Committee with effect from 15 October 2019, and the Assembly will therefore be required at its current session to appoint a person to fill the remainder of Mr. Kozaki’s term of office, which expires on 31 December 2010.

The Assembly decided to waive the relevant provision of rule 40 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure, and to include — under its current session’s agenda item 115 — an additional sub-item titled “Appointment of members and alternate members of the United Nations Staff Pension Committee,” under Heading I (Organizational, administrative and other matters). The Assembly also agreed to allocate this item to its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 30 October, to discuss the reports on the International Court of Justice.

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