International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals - Security Council, 8927th Meeting

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13-Dec-2021 02:10:28
Delivering judgments on three cases, Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals closer to fulfilling its work, President Tells Security Council.

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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 — has delivered judgments on three cases on schedule, diminishing its active caseload and demonstrating its intention to complete its functions efficiently and effectively, its President told the Security Council today.

Carmel Agius updated the 15-member organ about the Mechanism’s work during the reporting period, which included delivering the appeal judgement on the Mladić case, as well as trial judgments in the Stanišić and Simatović case and the Nzabonimpa et al. contempt case. On its docket at present are appeal proceedings on the latter two cases — one of which, Nzabonimpa et al., is now called Fatuma et al. — as well as the trial against Felicien Kabuga, which is in the pretrial phase due to his health.

The Mechanism has largely implemented various provisions of Security Council resolution 2529 (2020) to strengthen its efficient and transparent management, he continued, adding that it will continue to actively engage in the evaluation of its methods, ahead of the Council’s next review in 2022.

He went on to highlight a “major breakthrough” in the situation relating to the nine acquitted or released persons living in a safe house in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, thanks to the “exemplary cooperation” of Niamey, which culminated in the signing of a milestone agreement through which Niger has accepted for relocation in its territory all nine persons acquitted or released by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) or the Mechanism. He reiterated his call on Belgrade to fulfil its international obligations by arresting and transferring Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta to the Mechanism.

Serge Brammertz, the Mechanism’s Prosecutor, described work undertaken by his office, including in connection with the Kabuga case, for which the trial team filed its pretrial brief and responded to additional litigation pertaining to seized assets. His office also completed two more trials during the reporting period: Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović were convicted for aiding and abetting murder, deportation, and persecution as crimes against humanity and murder as a war crime. In the Nzabonimpa et al. case, the four accused were convicted of contempt of court for efforts to interfere with the administration of justice by influencing witnesses in a failed effort to overturn the genocide conviction of Augustin Ngirabatware.

On the search for the remaining six fugitives indicted by ICTR, the most wanted of whom is Protais Mpiranya, he said the Mechanism is implementing analysis-driven investigations using advanced tools under the new leadership of its tracking team. However, the success of those efforts will depend on cooperation from Zimbabwe and South Africa. While his office expects full and effective cooperation from Harare, to which it undertook a successful official visit in November, it has faced immense challenges over the past three years in obtaining cooperation from South Africa, he said, citing the country’s failure to arrest Fulgence Kayishema.

Turning to the continued denial of crimes and glorification of war criminals, he noted that murals of Ratko Mladić in Belgrade and the publication of extremist Rwandan diaspora groups demonstrate that there are still those who deny and minimize the judicially established facts of genocide and war crimes, which prevents reconciliation, provokes hatred and destabilize peace and security, and condemns present and future generations to bear the burdens of the past.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members reiterated their support for the Mechanism, with many praising its achievements over the past year, despite myriad challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the death of a judge. Many speakers emphasized the need for Member States to fully cooperate with the Mechanism, with several raising concern about Serbia’s lack of cooperation.

The representative of the United States was among several speakers expressing concern over Serbia’s non-compliance regarding certain arrest warrants, calling on Belgrade to execute them without delay. On the apprehension of the remaining six Rwandan fugitives, he called on States that may be harbouring these individuals to turn them over, noting that the United States is offering a reward for information that leads to such individuals’ arrest or conviction.

Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation described the work of the Mechanism as “a unique combination of bias and tardiness”, stating that it is systematically drawing out all trials and artificially extending its existence, although it was created as a temporary structure. Noting the Mechanism’s “financial appetite”, with more than $90 million spent on it in 2021 despite only one case is being heard at trial at present, he pointed out that national courts are cheaper and work better.

Niger’s delegate, President of the Security Council, speaking in his national capacity, welcomed the 15 November agreement between Niamey and the United Nations on the transfer of persons released or acquitted by ICTR or the Mechanism, and called on the Security Council, in coordination with the General Assembly, to allocate sufficient resources to enable the Mechanism to fulfil its mission.

The representative of Serbia called for a timely response to requests for early release submitted to the Mechanism by various citizens of his country and reiterated that his Government is ready to assume responsibility “for sentence serving of its citizens who were convicted by the Tribunal”. Turning to the unresolved issue concerning the archives of the Tribunal, he stated that documents which have been submitted to the Office of the Prosecutor, but not used as evidence during the ICTY and Mechanism proceedings, should be returned to source institutions. Moreover, the Security Council must not allow the harassment of incarcerated Serbian citizens, he stressed, also pointing to threats and intimidation of witnesses in the Jojić and Radeta case.

Rwanda’s representative called for the commencement of the trial of Mr. Kabuga, the only genocide fugitive apprehended by the Mechanism since its inception in 2010. Noting with concern that several Member States refuse to extend cooperation to the Prosecutor’s office, she recalled that more than 1.4 million Rwandans were murdered in an atrocious manner within only three months in 1994 and questioned the geostrategic interests of any Member State choosing to side with the perpetrators by helping them evade justice.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s representative described his country’s cooperation with the Mechanism as stable and complete, noting that in the period between the two Council sessions, the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has forwarded more than 170 different cases for further investigation and prosecution. A regional conference with representatives of the Prosecutor’s office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and representatives of Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro was held in Belgrade, on 20 and 21 September, he continued, adding that the objective of the meeting was to discuss resolving all unresolved war crime cases, including through improving cooperation between countries and mutual legal assistance.

Croatia’s delegate said his country is still waiting for Serbia’s response to finalize the draft of a bilateral agreement on processing war crimes. Noting that Zagreb decided to reject the request initiated by Republika Srpska and forwarded to Croatia through institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take over the prosecution of 14 high-ranking Croatian officers, suspected of war crimes allegedly committed in 1995 during Operation Flash, he expressed regret that the Prosecutor negatively reflected this decision in his report. On the search for 1,853 missing Croatian citizens, which is his country’s long-standing priority, he noted that the discovery of a mass grave with the remains of at least 10 people near the town of Vukovar in November was solely the result of Croatian authorities’ efforts, which clearly demonstrates that crucial information is still not shared.

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

The meeting began at 11:29 a.m. and ended at 1:39 p.m.

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