International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals - Security Council Open VTC

Preview Language:   English
14-Dec-2020 02:22:48
International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals may conclude most cases by May 2021, its president tells Security Council.

Available Languages: Six Official
Six Official
Other Formats
The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals — the judicial body that took over the remaining work of the two dedicated tribunals for war crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia — could conclude most of its pending caseload by the end of May next year, its President told the Security Council during a 14 December video conference meeting.

“It is almost with a sense of déja vu that I say this because, were it not for COVID-19, the Mechanism would have been able to conclude the existing proceedings in 2020, as anticipated last December,” said Carmel Agius, President of the Mechanism. He emphasized that judges and staff are ready to exert all efforts to ensure completion of the relevant cases by the projected dates, with full regard for the rights of accused persons.

He pointed out that 22 December marks 10 years since the Security Council adopted resolution 1966 (2010), which established the Mechanism, successor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

“It is particularly special for the Mechanism to reach this anniversary during a year marking the United Nations’ own seventy-fifth birthday,” he said, underscoring the Mechanism’s raison d’être while taking stock of the progress made and the work that remains to be done.

He said that, from the early days of transitional arrangements and “double‑hatting” to navigating the closure of the ad hoc Tribunals to finding its feet as a stand-alone institution, the Mechanism has certainly covered much territory over the years. Additionally, it has managed a considerable workload and consolidated the best practices of two disparate institutions.

Key developments in the former Yugoslavia cases since the last semi-annual meeting in June, he said, include the appeal hearing in the case against former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić, held at the Mechanism’s Hague premises in late August, with 4 of the 5 judges of the Appeals Chamber participating by video teleconference. The case is expected to conclude in May 2021.

In September, he recalled, in-court proceedings resumed in the case against Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović, with the Trial Chamber hearing the final five witnesses for the Simatović defence. The judgment is likewise expected by the end of May. On 8 December, the Single Judge seized of the contempt case against Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta issued a public decision, reiterating the previous request that Serbia comply with its obligation to transfer the accused to the seat of the Mechanism in The Hague without delay, with a view to ascertaining Serbia’s compliance with his decision within 90 days.

Turning to Rwanda cases, he said the Arusha branch finally commenced the trial in the case against Maximilien Turinabo and others on 22 October. With the presentation of witnesses for the prosecution now concluded, the defence phase will begin in early 2021, with the trial judgement also expected in May 2021, he added.

In addition, he continued, important events took place in relation to fugitives indicted by the Rwanda Tribunal, with new pretrial proceedings having commenced in the case against Félicien Kabuga, who was transferred to the United Nations Detention Unit in The Hague in October, following his arrest earlier in the year. His initial appearance took place on 11 November, when a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf, he recalled. Further, the case against fugitive Augustin Bizimana was formally closed, following his death, he said, noting that only six fugitives remain, with one expected to be tried.

Stressing that the support of Member States is crucial to the Mechanism’s ability to effectively discharge its functions, he highlighted Mr. Kabuga’s arrest by the French authorities as an invigorating example of what the Mechanism can achieve with the collaboration and committed efforts of States and other stakeholders. He recalled that Council resolution 2529 (2020) urges all States to intensify their cooperation with, and render all necessary assistance to, the Mechanism regarding the remaining fugitives, as well as the protracted relocation of the nine acquitted and released individuals still waiting in an Arusha safe house.

Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, affirmed his staff’s commitment to completing its important work despite the COVID-19 pandemic. In relation to trials and appeals, he reported that in-court proceedings recommenced in late August, with his Office having presented its oral appellate arguments in the Mladić case and now awaiting the judgment. On Turinabo et al., his Office presented its witness evidence in only six weeks and is now preparing to respond to the defence cases and then make final submissions. The presentation of evidence in the Stanišić and Simatović re‑trial has been completed, with the prosecution team now working to prepare its final trial brief and closing oral arguments. In the newest case, against Mr. Kabuga, a team was established in Kigali in August, less than three months after his arrest, to prepare for trial. The team is now contacting witnesses, reviewing the evidence collected and meeting its pretrial obligations, despite pandemic obstacles. He thanked the Government of Rwanda for its strong cooperation in the case. On the remaining ad hoc judicial activities, he said his Office is firmly focused on completing them as quickly as possible, with judgments in three cases expected by the end of May 2021.

Regarding remaining fugitives, he said his Office has viable leads and is focusing in particular on Protais Mpiranya, who will be tried by the Mechanism upon his arrest. Fulgence Kayishema, who is charged with playing a major role in the horrific 1994 Nyange Church massacre, also remains at large, following what he called “South Africa’s failure to provide effective cooperation over the last two and a half years.” Addressing the South African delegate, he said: “Empower your operational services — particularly police and prosecutors — to work directly with us on a day-to-day basis. And truly give them your full political and diplomatic support, as well as the resources they require to help us.” He said he was prepared to visit Pretoria in 2021 to further discuss cooperation and agree on a clear joint strategy and operational arrangements, adding: “This would also send the right message to other capitals.” He also described further engagement with Zimbabwean and Ugandan authorities to strengthen their cooperation on locating other fugitives and appealed again for the Council’s firm support in encouraging such cooperation to close remaining cases. His Office also continues to urge full cooperation with the work of the Prosecutor General of Rwanda as he seeks to account for hundreds more fugitives who remain at large. Arrests conducted by Belgian and Dutch authorities in September and October, respectively, demonstrate both that international cooperation is vital and that justice can be achieved in courtrooms around the world, he observed.

His Office, he said, also continues to strengthen its support to national prosecutors in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, with several important files having been transferred to Croatia and Serbia. During the reporting period, a requested dossier concerning more than 15 suspects in serious crimes including sexual violence was handed over to Montenegrin authorities. In pursuing further such efforts, diplomatic support from the European Union and other partners will remain critical. Reiterating the importance of finishing work on missing persons in the former Yugoslavia, he said close cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross and national missing persons authorities is producing significant results. Just a few weeks ago, a new mass grave for Kosovo Albanians victims was found at Kizevak, Serbia, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, assistance from his Office contributed to locating four new grave sites during the reporting period, as well. “More than two decades after the end of the conflicts, 10,000 families are still waiting to learn the fates of their loved ones. Accounting for all missing persons is a humanitarian imperative” he stressed.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers broadly welcomed the Mechanism’s progress made, including the arrest of Félicien Kabuga. Several Council members called upon authorities in all States, particularly those in which fugitives are known to be, to cooperate with the Mechanism and the Office of the Prosecutor. Other speakers encouraged the Mechanism to adhere to its completion schedule while stressing the importance of building national capacity to exercise their responsibility for fighting and preventing heinous crimes. The Council also heard that detained suspects, including Ratko Mladić, are treated inhumanely, with many having died in custody.

For further details please see SOURCE below.
Personal Subjects
Geographic Subjects
Parent ID
Asset ID