Security Council: International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals - 8790th Meeting

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08-Jun-2021 02:16:09
Those who commit atrocity crimes will ‘ultimately be brought to justice’, Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals head tells Security Council.

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Delegates Warn about Dangers of Glorifying War Criminals, Denying Genocide

The final judgement against Ratko Mladić by the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) is proof that perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity will — sooner or later — face justice, no matter who they might be, the President of the Mechanism told the Security Council today.

Carmel Agius briefed the 15-member organ via video-teleconference just hours after the former Bosnian Serb military commander — nicknamed “the Butcher of Bosnia” — lost his bid to overturn his 2017 conviction by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for atrocities which included the Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 1995.

“The issuance of the final judgement sends a strong message to victims of atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere that perpetrators of such heinous crimes will ultimately be brought to justice, regardless of their position or how powerful and untouchable they consider themselves to be,” said Mr. Agius as he updated the Council on the Mechanism’s work.

Established by the Council through resolution 1966 (2010), and with chambers in The Hague and Arusha, IRMCT is tasked with completing the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The Council debates its work twice a year.

Serge Brammertz, the Mechanism’s Prosecutor, also speaking via video-teleconference, said that “today justice has been done”. He said that he spoke earlier in the day with mothers of those who died in Srebrenica, who asked him to convey the simple message that “justice matters”. Sadly, there are too many people like Mr. Mladić in the world, but justice matters to ensure that grave wrongs are not repeated, he said.

The IRMCT plans to issue two more judgements in June — one in the retrial of former Serbian State Security officials Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic in The Hague, the other in a contempt case against Anselme Nzabonimpa and others in Arusha. Its President added that Félicien Kabuga, arrested in France in May 2020 in connection with the 1994 Rwandan genocide, is undergoing an independent medical examination in The Hague to determine his fitness to stand trial in Arusha.

The President also discussed his letter of 11 May to the Council regarding Serbia’s failure — for the third time in six years — to comply with its international obligations and arrest and extradite Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta on contempt of court charges. Both served on the defence team for Serbian politician Vojislav Šešel, whose acquittal by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in 2016 was partially reversed by the Mechanism’s Appeal Chamber two years later.

Turning to the search for six fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Prosecutor said that his Office has viable leads on their whereabouts, but some Member States are preventing it from securing their arrest. One indictee, Fulgence Kayishema, remains at large because South Africa is failing to cooperate, he said, adding that that country’s authorities are sending a message that theirs is a safe haven for fugitives.

In the ensuing debate, Council members reiterated their support for IRMCT and warned of the dangers of genocide denial and the glorification of war criminals. Speakers also paid tribute to Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso, one of the Mechanism’s judges, who died unexpectedly in February.

The representative of the United States urged all countries to cooperate with the Mechanism to arrest fugitives and to fulfil its mandate. He urged Serbia in particular to immediately cooperate with IRMCT, saying that its failure to do so undermines both international law and the Council’s authority.

The Russian Federation’s representative said promoting a theory about Belgrade’s lack of cooperation highlights problems with the Mechanism, which does not believe it should report to the Council on the rights of its detainees. He hoped that IRMCT will conclude its work and not drag out its proceedings going forward.

Niger’s delegate commended the Mechanism for pursuing its work despite the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that its budget — set by the General Assembly through its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) — should be commensurate with its responsibilities. Genocide and other war crimes must not go unpunished, he said, calling on States to cooperate with IRMCT.

Aleksandar Vučić, President of Serbia, spoke via video-teleconference, saying that the Mechanism has indicted Mr. Jojić and Ms. Radeta for contempt of court, not severe violations of international humanitarian law. He noted that the Higher Court in Belgrade has determined that grounds for their extradition to The Hague have not been met.

Rwanda’s representative said that a lack of cooperation from Member States is the single most important impediment to the completion of the Mechanism’s mandate. Few countries have responded to the 1,145 indictments which Rwanda has sent out requesting their cooperation with the arrest and prosecution of genocide fugitives or their transfer to Kigali, she said.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s representative said that the final verdict in the Mladić case demonstrates that attempts to rewrite history will fail. The “Butcher of Bosnia” will die in disgrace and live in infamy, but justice has prevailed, he said, adding that Bosnia and Herzegovina today is a grateful nation.

Also speaking were representatives of Viet Nam, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Kenya, Mexico, France, India, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, China, Ireland, Norway, Estonia and Croatia.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 5:20 p.m.

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