International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals - Security Council, 9217th Meeting

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12-Dec-2022 02:04:48
Mechanism for criminal tribunals one of United Nations’ ‘best investments’, its president tells Security Council, highlighting significant progress.

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Highlighting significant progress and tangible results in its core judicial cases, the President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals called for the international community’s continued support of its functions as it shifts from an operational to a residual court that safeguards the legacy of the Tribunals for war crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, as well as the Mechanism itself.

Graciela Gatti Santana, President of the Mechanism, reported that it remains strong, delivering tangible results. After the conclusion of the Fatuma et al. contempt case on 29 June, the Mechanism is left only with two main cases. The trial against Félicien Kabuga commenced in the Hague on 29 September and should be completed by September 2024. Equally, the Stanišić and Simatović appeal proceedings continue to be on track and the appeal judgment is expected to be delivered by June 2023, she said.

As well, the Mechanism will continue crafting options for any transfer of functions and will provide updates to guide its continuing transition to a truly residual court, she said, stressing: “The term ‘residual’ should not give impression that we no longer matter.” It will continue its work on the enforcement of sentences, preservation of archives, protection of witnesses, assistance to national jurisdictions and other judicial activities, even after the completion of its pending caseload.

She urged the international community to remain steadfast in its commitment to embrace the reality that justice does not end with final judgment. The Mechanism’s residual functions require continuous efforts to ensure that the legacy of both Tribunals and the Mechanism is not derailed. More importantly, she underscored: “The Mechanism is proud of its contribution and should be considered one of the best investments of the United Nations.”

Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said that in the search for the remaining four fugitives, the top priority is Fulgence Kayishema, who is indicted for the 1994 murders of more than 2,000 refugees. In that regard, cooperation with South Africa was now moving in a very positive direction. As there are still more than 1,000 fugitives wanted by Rwandan prosecutors for crimes committed during the 1994 genocide, he warned States that suspected génocidaires may be living in their territory.

Spotlighting thousands of cases yet to be completed in national courts, he said his Office’s assistance remains essential in completing this work. Its confidential evidence collection contains more than 11 million pages of testimony, reports and records. Voicing concern over the continuing denial of war crimes and glorification of convicted war criminals in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, he called on all officials and public figures in the region to act responsibly.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members commended the Mechanism’s progress in its trial and appeals proceedings, underscoring its critical role in achieving justice for victims of war crimes. Many speakers welcomed the Mechanism’s efforts to transition from an operational to a residual court and called on Member States’ cooperation to help further advance its work.

Gabon's representative, President of the Working Group on the International Residual Mechanism, noted that the Mechanism has now reached a crucial phase. Its credibility and effectiveness will continue to depend largely on the assistance that States provide to enable the arrest of fugitives, he said, encouraging concerned countries to cooperate closely with the Mechanism to maximize the collection of evidence essential to the opening of judicial investigations.

The representative of the United States, among others, called on Member States that may be harbouring any of the remaining fugitives from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to cooperate with the investigation. Noting the contempt case and lack of action with respect to defendants Jojić and Radeta, he urged Serbia to respond to the outstanding arrest warrants. National authorities must carry on with the important work of ensuring domestic prosecutions and promoting truth-telling and reconciliation and States must promptly and fully respond to all requests for cooperation, he said.

China’s representative, on that note, expressed hope that the Mechanism and parties concerned will strengthen communication, enhance mutual trust and accommodate respective legitimate concerns. With the reduction in number of cases and judicial functions, the Mechanism should reduce its expenditures and rationalize allocation of budgetary resources to focus on judicial activities, he said.

The representative of the Russian Federation, however, pointed out that the Mechanism continues to carry out functions that are not its own, trying to prolong its existence artificially. It would be useful to hear considerations on options for transferring the residual functions of the Mechanism after its termination, he said.

Serbia’s representative, addressing repeated assertions of Belgrade’s alleged non-cooperation with the Mechanism on the Jojić and Radeta case, said his country’s conduct represents its effort to act in accordance with resolution 1966 (2010). Addressing claims of denying war crimes and glorifying war criminals, he said Serbia has proven its commitment to justice and accountability. However, the legacy of the Tribunal and the Mechanism has been questionable, as evidenced by the Tribunal’s number of acquittals, insufficient cooperation with actors in the region and lack of readiness to investigate horrendous crimes against Serbs and try perpetrators.

Rwanda’s representative underscored that the expertise and knowledge of the Court should be utilized in capacity-training and knowledge-transfer to assist in hunting down the remaining fugitives. Despite having set up the Tribunals, the international community has, for a long time, been reluctant to bring genocide perpetrators to justice. Pointing to the lack of timely and effective cooperation by some Member States, he reported that Rwanda sent out over 1,000 indictments to 34 countries and urged their cooperation in arresting and prosecuting fugitives.

Croatia’s representative said the Stanišić and Simatović case should end with a judgement that clearly demonstrates the involvement of the top Serbian authorities in atrocity crimes. Serbia’s complete lack of political will to exchange information and enable archival access remains the greatest obstacle to resolving the fate and whereabouts of the remaining 1,821 missing persons. Finding their remains and determining the circumstances leading to their disappearance is not just a matter of human dignity but also an essential element for reconciliation, he emphasized.

The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina reported that prosecutors throughout his country are currently working on 465 war crimes cases that involve more than 4,000 suspects. However, his country’s judicial authorities are waiting for a significant number of responses from Croatian authorities regarding requests for mutual legal assistance, he said, appealing for the Croatian judicial authorities’ positive response. Properly acknowledging the truth of the past and condemning those responsible for such crimes “is key for our common future” and for forging relationships, he added.

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

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:08 p.m.

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