DELEGATES REAFFIRM THEIR SUPPORT FOR ENHANCED FUNCTIONING OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS

21 November 2002
GA/AB/3541

DELEGATES REAFFIRM THEIR SUPPORT FOR ENHANCED FUNCTIONING OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS

21/11/2002
Press ReleaseGA/AB/3541

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fifth Committee

27th Meeting (AM)

DELEGATES REAFFIRM THEIR SUPPORT FOR ENHANCED FUNCTIONING

OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS

While commending the performance of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, speakers in the Fifth Committee, which was concluding its consideration of financing of the two bodies, this morning proposed ways of enhancing their efficiency.

Among positive developments, delegates mentioned the fact that both Tribunals had now specifically prohibited over-billing and frivolous practices by counsel, fee-splitting, and gift-giving between members of the defence teams and their clients.  Delegates also commended the Tribunals for formulating or partially formulating a working definition of indigence, employing clear and quantitative criteria to determine whether a person qualified for legal aid.

However, speakers continued to express their concern regarding the vacancy rate at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and stressed the need for greater flexibility in the Tribunal’s recruitment services.  It was agreed that those deficiencies had nothing to do with a lack of qualified candidates, and some delegates suggested that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) should conduct a management review of the Office of the Prosecutor.  Concern was also expressed over the fact that defence counsel costs continued to skyrocket at the ICTR, and some delegates were not convinced that the Tribunal had effectively managed, monitored and controlled the expenses of its legal aid system.

The representative of Malawi supported the request for an additional appropriation of some $2.2 million for the ICTR for 2002-2003, taking into account additional requirements arising from various adjustments, defence counsel resources and the appointment of ad litem judges.  However, the United States representative believed that the positive trend of favourable exchange rates could continue, in which case it might be premature to authorize any additional funds in this biennium.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa.

The Fifth Committee will meet again at a date to be announced.

Background

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) met this morning to continue its consideration of the financing of the International Criminal Tribunals.  (See Press Release GA/AB/3540 of 18 November for further details.)  It was also expected to continue its consideration of a request for a subvention by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.

Statements

KAREN LOCK (South Africa) conveyed her delegation’s full support of the Tribunals and said she was particularly encouraged by the success of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) over the past seven and a half years.  Those achievements were even more commendable in light of the difficult circumstances the Tribunal had had to act under.  She was encouraged that the ICTR remained committed to achieving its projected targets by the end of the current biennium, and trusted that the appointment of ad litem judges would help reduce the period of pre-trial detention.

She shared concerns over the vacancy rate at the ICTR, she continued, and said that greater flexibility was needed in the Tribunal’s recruitment services.  For example, the position of Chief of Prosecution would have been vacant for more than two years by the end of 2002.  She further believed that Member States had a collective responsibility to ensure that the Tribunal received the resources it required to carry out its mandate.  She added that the United Nations should remain responsible for ensuring that national reconciliation would not end once the mandate of the ICTR expired.  The United Nations should contribute to the upkeep of the maintenance costs of enforcing sentences, she said.

ELIZABETH NAKIAN (United States) listed among positive developments the fact that both Tribunals had now specifically prohibited over-billing and frivolous practices by counsel, as well as fee-splitting and gift-giving between members of the defence team and their clients.  They had also formulated or partially formulated a working definition of indigence, employing clear and quantitative criteria to determine whether a person qualified for legal aid.  She commended the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for improving the management of its legal aid programme and for establishing a defence bar in accordance with international best practices on legal ethics.  As for the ICTR, she noted that the judges were exercising greater control over judicial proceedings.  The Tribunal had also imposed sanctions for unwarranted judicial and administrative conduct, including the dismissal of defence counsel.

Considerable work still remained to be done, however.  Not all the posts approved by the Assembly for on-site audit and investigation services had been filled.  The United States strongly supported the proposal for those oversight posts, and appealed to the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to make filling them a priority.  She also shared the concern over the fact that defence counsel costs continued to skyrocket at the ICTR.  She was not convinced that the Tribunal had effectively managed, monitored and controlled the expenses of its legal aid system.  Thus, she concurred with the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) recommendation not to authorize an additional expenditure of $3.7 million for defence counsel for the remainder of the current biennium.  She also shared the Advisory Committee’s concern about the protracted period of vacancy for the Deputy Prosecutor and the Chief of Prosecution, which might have adversely affected the capacity of the Court to develop a coherent investigation and prosecution policy.

She went on to concur with the ACABQ recommendation not to appropriate a request for an additional appropriation of $2.18 million for the ICTR, which was based upon positive exchange rates and standard costs savings, offset by adverse inflation conditions and other expenses for defence counsel.  As the positive trend of favourable exchange rates could continue, it might be premature to authorize any additional funds in this biennium.

Regarding ad litem judges for the ICTR, she said that in light of the high vacancy rate at the Tribunal, the number of requested support staff and associated costs should be reduced, as recommended by the ACABQ.  Additional requirements should be met through redeployment.  With the addition of ad litem judges, the Tribunal should be in a better position to develop and implement a completion strategy.  Along those lines, her delegation would expect that the completion of the Tribunal’s investigations around June 2003 would mean an attendant reduction in the number of posts.  Also, her delegation agreed with the ACABQ that the model agreements with regard to the enforcement of sentences appeared to have been developed in an ad hoc manner.  The issue deserved more detailed consideration, and the Assembly might wish to give further policy guidance on the matter.

Finally, with regard to the Yugoslav Tribunal, based on the information provided in the reports before the Committee, her delegation was now prepared to support the addition of at least one trial team for its Prosecution Division.  In the context of the evolving completion strategy, she also supported the Advisory Committee’s recommendation that the ICTY should start to plan early for the reduction of the investigation staff in the Office of the Prosecutor.

GEBHARD KANDANGA (Namibia) said that he shared concerns over the escalation of costs for the defence counsel at the ICTR, and trusted that the panel appointed in that regard would make recommendations to further strengthen the Tribunal to enable it to manage those costs.  It was unacceptable, he continued, that a number of posts at the ICTR had been vacant for such a long time.  That had nothing to do with a lack of qualified candidates.  His delegation, therefore, believed that the OIOS should conduct a management review of the Office of the Prosecutor.  He also sought clarification as to whether the resources allocated by the General Assembly to upgrade prison facilities in the ICTR had not been spent in the authorized way.

NONYE UDO (Nigeria) said that the protracted issue of high vacancy rates of over 20 per cent for the Professional category and above, and 10 per cent for General Service and related categories, was very discomfiting.  The fact that the posts of Deputy Prosecutor and Chief of Prosecution were amongst those that had remained vacant for so long was of serious concern.  She agreed with the ACABQ’s recommendation that the OIOS conduct a management review of the Prosecutor’s Office.  The Tribunal was in dire need of leadership and guidance to develop a completion strategy with respect to investigation and prosecution, but lacked the personnel to do so.

Her delegation was also concerned over the continuously escalating indigency expenses for the defence counsel.  Those should be properly addressed with a view to streamlining them, she said.  There was a need for proper management and auditing of services, but such an exercise was unfeasible as the posts needed for audit and investigation were yet to be filled -- one year after the General Assembly had approved them.  On the issue of the enforcement of sentences, she had

noted with surprise that the agreements the Tribunal had entered into with the countries concerned failed to state that the Tribunal would bear the costs for upgrading prison facilities.  She believed that further budgetary requests on enforcement of sentences should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

ISAAC C. LAMBA (Malawi) commended the two Tribunals for their excellent work so far, which had helped to engender a sense of justice in the minds of the victims of the horrific acts of genocide.  It was encouraging to know that the ICTR had so far concluded nine trials in its three Trial Chambers and indicted

80 persons, 60 of whom were now currently in custody.  His delegation commended the Government of Rwanda for its cooperation with the Tribunal.

Continuing, he expressed concern about the high rate of unfilled vacancies at the Tribunal, despite the fact that the region had an abundance of suitably qualified men and women.  Most worrying was the fact that the posts of Chief of Prosecution and Deputy Prosecutor had remained vacant for such a long time.  He called on the Secretary-General to work on that matter with the urgency it deserved.  He hoped that the Secretary-General’s promise to fill the posts by the beginning of 2003 would be carried out to protect the Tribunal’s integrity.  Extreme caution should be taken to maintain the standard of performance through selection of appropriately qualified personnel for the posts.

In conclusion, he called upon the Secretary-General to hasten the bringing in of the four ad litem judges to beef up the Tribunal.  His delegation also supported the proposal to revise the appropriation for the ICTR for 2002-2003, taking into account additional requirements arising from various adjustments, defence counsel resources and the appointment of ad litem judges, whose conditions of service would be similar to those of ad litem judges of the ICTY.

Other Matters

The Committee then turned to a request for a subvention of $227,600 by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, and decided to request the Secretariat to prepare a draft decision whereby the Assembly would approve the request.

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For information media. Not an official record.