8681st Security Council Meeting: International Criminal Tribunals

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11-Dec-2019 01:53:52
Financial support, member states’ cooperation needed to complete work of residual mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, top officials tell Security Council at 8681st meeting.

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Briefing the Security Council today, officials of the mechanism created to finish the work of the international tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia requested both increased cooperation from Member States and adequate financial support to complete their judicial work during 2020.

Carmel Agius, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, presented the fifteenth progress report of the Mechanism, underscoring that the principles, judges and staff of the Mechanism were aware of the importance of succeeding in its mission and were working tirelessly to discharge their duties as effectively and efficiently as possible. Giving an overview of the progress made in cases in the branches in Arusha and The Hague, he described harmonizing procedures between the two locations and the consideration of such issues as conditional early release of certain prisoners.

“There are many milestones within our grasp,” he continued, emphasizing that 2020 would be an extremely important year for the Mechanism. Most of the judicial caseload should be completed by the end of the year, but other residual functions would continue as planned within a small and efficient structure. In order to reach that stage, further cooperation of Member States was needed in enforcement of sentences and arrest of fugitives who remain at large, he stated, adding that adequate financial support was critical, as well.

Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the Mechanism, also affirmed his commitment to meeting deadlines and presenting arguments in the Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović retrial and the Ratko Mladić appeal. At the Arusha branch, he described steps taken to protect witnesses and prosecute contempt of court, underscoring that contempt of court is a form of genocide denial that must be opposed for the sake of peace, reconciliation and the truth. Reviewing efforts to locate and arrest the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, he said that after his Office had submitted its report to the Council — and nearly one and a half years of inaction — South Africa said it had finally submitted the arrest warrant to the competent judicial authorities for execution.

He also expressed regret that in the former Yugoslavia, where thousands of cases remain before national courts, the denial of crimes and glorification of convicted war criminals is pervasive and getting worse, with some politicians believing they can win elections by denying atrocities and glorifying those responsible. In both Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, prosecutors, judges, civil society and others are continuing the fight to bring perpetrators to justice, establish the rule of law and promote reconciliation. “They need our help and support as much as ever before,” he said.

Most Council members, commending the Mechanism for its progress, welcomed its efforts to harmonize operations while emphasizing the need for efficiency.

Peru’s representative, noting his service as Chair of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals, underscored the importance of the Mechanism for strengthening international justice, combating impunity and promoting reconciliation through its adjudication of remaining cases. Therefore, it was critical to ensure the Council’s unity regarding such work as the Mechanism concluded its judicial tasks.

The representative of the Russian Federation, however, decried the continuing burden of tribunals set up a quarter‑century ago. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia embraced the worst features of politically driven justice, he stressed, adding that the Mechanism was driven by the same flaws. He called for the Mechanism to swiftly wind up all the cases before it.

Several speakers also urged cooperation with the Mechanism in finishing its work, particularly in regard the arrest and transfer of fugitives and enforcement of sentences.

Germany’s representative, emphasizing that his country would continue to offer full support for the Mechanism in its continuing work, stressed that the Council must lead by example and render all cooperation in the arrest of outstanding fugitives.

To that point, South Africa’s representative affirmed his country’s commitment to meeting its international obligations and announced that today the international arrest warrant for the fugitive said to be located in his country had been endorsed in accordance with South Africa’s domestic law, paving the way to give effect to the request for assistance.

However, Serbia’s representative expressed regret that, despite exemplary cooperation with the Mechanism and fulfilment of its obligations, his country continues to be looked at as a “bĕte noire”. Describing Serbia’s cooperation, he expressed concern over how questions of early release will be addressed, given that many sentenced persons are elderly and in poor health and, for reasons of humanity, should have their cases solved.

Croatia’s representative stressed that resolving outstanding cases from the former Yugoslavia is of utmost importance to the legacy of accountability for aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last decade of the twentieth century and underlined the need for Serbia to fully cooperate. He called on that country to stop glorifying war crimes as well.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s delegate, also describing his country’s cooperation with the Mechanism, said that the efficient, timely and successful conclusion of the Mechanism’s mandate is crucially important for justice and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the region. “More justice means more trust and stability,” he stressed.

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

The meeting started at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:57 a.m.

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