International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals - Security Council, 9062nd Meeting

Preview Language:   Six Official
14-Jun-2022 02:20:35
‘Justice will ultimately prevail where there is the political will to seek it’, President of Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals tells Security Council.

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Despite scepticism about the efficacy of international criminal justice, the work of ad hoc tribunals truly matters and justice will ultimately prevail, the chief judge of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) told the Security Council today.

“The uncertainties that have plagued us recently show no signs of abating, and I admit it is not always easy to remain optimistic about the state of international criminal justice,” said Carmel Agius, President of the Mechanism — the judicial body that took over the remaining work of the two dedicated tribunals for war crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Delivering his last briefing to the 15-member organ before he steps down at the end of June, he added: “However, my experiences at the Mechanism and the ad hoc Tribunals have reinforced in me the unshakeable belief that the work of these institutions truly matters; that international justice initiatives can and do succeed, beyond all expectations; and that justice will ultimately prevail where there is the political will to seek it.”

After almost a decade of operations, IRMCT is far closer to realizing the Council’s vision of a small and temporary institution, he emphasized, noting that since taking office, he has issued 72 decisions and orders, leaving only two recently filed matters to be dealt with by his successor.

On recent developments, he said the appeal judgement in the Fatuma et al. case will be delivered on 29 June. In the other appeal case, Stanišić and Simatović, the proceedings are well on track for completion by the projected timeframe of June 2023, and another status conference will be held next week. In the Kabuga case, following the recent hearing of independent medical experts and oral submissions of the parties, the Trial Chamber on 13 june issued its decision, finding that the defence has not established that Félicien Kabuga is presently unfit for trial.

Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of IRMCT, said that, in the last two years, his office has accounted for half of the fugitives who remained at large following the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). This includes all three of the “so-called major fugitives” — Mr. Kabuga, Augustin Bizimina and Protais Mpiranya, former commander of the Presidential Guard.

There are now only four fugitives remaining, he pointed out, “including our top priority, Fulgence Kayishema”, adding that progress is now being made on that front with South Africa, and with the full and effective cooperation of that country. Expressing confidence that Mr. Kayishema’s flight from justice will soon be brought to an end, he said the office’s goal is to account for all four outstanding fugitives by the time the Council next reviews the Mechanism’s work.

In the ensuing discussion, members broadly expressed support for IRMCT, urging it to develop a timetable to complete its residual work.

The representative of Gabon, as Chair of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals, said it is essential for the Council to continue supporting IRMCT in fulfilling its mandate. He also underscored the importance of cooperation with national tribunals, and the need to strengthen the capacities of the national judicial systems. With many challenges remaining, “the job is far from being complete”, he stressed.

“Fighting impunity is everyone’s business,” said France’s representative, stressing the importance for IRMCT to have the financial resources necessary to fulfil its mandate. Noting the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), she said IRMCT implemented two of the four recommendations, with no new recommendation made. This attested to the temporary nature of the Mechanism, she said, urging it to complete the two remaining recommendations.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said that, over the last sixth months, IRMCT has made “no progress” towards the planned conclusion of its work, questioning whether it will be able to support the process of reconciliation in the Balkans as IRMCT has continued the tradition of the one-sided and politically biased International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The United Kingdom’s representative said that the world is seeing appalling barbarism and heinous acts committed by the Russian Federation in Ukraine on a scale not seen in Europe since the dark days of the 1990s in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Mechanism stands as a reminder that the Security Council can and should act to ensure accountability for atrocity crimes. Sadly, there are some who smear IRMCT and its predecessors, glorify war criminals and deny genocides that happened in Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina, he warned, rejecting those “false narratives”.

Serbia’s Justice Minister, Maja Popović, rejected allegations of Belgrade’s non-cooperation in connection with the case against Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta, saying that her country’s conduct regarding this case does not constitute a violation of its international obligations, but, rather, an effort to comply with resolution 1966 (2010). Negotiations between Serbia and Croatia on the establishment of a framework for processing war crimes is a bilateral issue that is not within IRMCT’s exclusive jurisdiction, she stressed.

The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina said there has been no progress in the matter of Novak Đukić and Milomir Savčić, who were standing trial in his country and fled to Serbia. Regarding cooperation with the judicial authorities of Croatia, he urged Zagreb to reverse its conclusion to not comply with the requests for mutual legal assistance in the cases of crimes against humanity.

Rwanda’s delegate said Kigali has sent out over 1,000 indictments to 34 countries, requesting cooperation in arresting and prosecuting fugitives or transferring them to his State to face justice, but only a few have complied. He went on to call on IRMCT to commence the trial of M. Kabuga without delay and expressed concern over the current resurgence in hate speech targeting the Tutsi and Rwandaphones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “This deteriorating environment is an early warning sign of intention to perpetrate genocide,” he stressed.

Croatia’s representative expressed hope that the Appeals Chamber will acknowledge the necessity of coherence in judgments regarding the Stanišić and Simatović case. Rejecting some Prosecutor’s negative qualifications regarding Croatia’s bilateral cooperation, he stressed that meaningful cooperation is not a one-way process. For years, Croatia has been waiting for Serbia’s response to an invitation to finalize the draft of a bilateral agreement on processing war crimes. Instead, Serbia is initiating politicized criminal proceedings against Croatian citizens that are at odds with international standards of universal jurisdiction.

Also speaking today were the representatives of India, Ghana, United States, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, China, Kenya, Norway, Ireland, Brazil and Albania.

The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 12:22 p.m.

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