PRESIDENTS OF TRIBUNALS FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA, RWANDA ADDRESS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, ASK FOR CONTINUED SUPPORT AS COMPLETION DATES APPROACH
PRESIDENTS OF TRIBUNALS FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA, RWANDA ADDRESS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, ASK FOR CONTINUED SUPPORT AS COMPLETION DATES APPROACH
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
25th Meeting (AM)
PRESIDENTS OF TRIBUNALS FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA, RWANDA ADDRESS GENERAL ASSEMBLY,
ASK FOR CONTINUED SUPPORT AS COMPLETION DATES APPROACH
Say Still Need Greater Cooperation on High-Profile Fugitives;
Legacy Will Be Unprecedented Body of Jurisprudence, Local Prosecutions
With the completion dates for their work fast approaching, top officials from the United Nations courts trying cases stemming from the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the Balkan wars of the 1990s today called on the General Assembly to help see their pioneering work through to the end, and ensure that their legacy would be a lasting testament to international post-conflict justice and the end of impunity.
Both International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda President Michael Dennis Byron and International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia President Fausto Pocar said they were on track to meet 2008 Security Council-mandated completion strategies, but that it would take greater cooperation from Member States to apprehend high-profile fugitives, accept cases on referral, and provide resources to maintain archives and support national judicial systems.
“With each successful prosecution,” said Mr. Pocar, “the International Tribunal is shoring up the foundation of a still-nascent international system of criminal justice…” The Tribunal’s pioneering role and its unprecedented body of jurisprudence would be its most significant achievement, and the continuation of its work by local prosecutions of war criminals in the region would be its real legacy. “There will be no impunity where there is international will,” he said.
For its part, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had already established a record of international humanitarian law violations committed in 1994 and contributed to the development of a strong domestic judicial system, said Mr. Byron. Further, the Court’s leading decisions were already providing guidance for national and international courts designed to enforce international humanitarian law, such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone. There would be no lasting peace in the region without a credible international justice perspective that united the people of Rwanda and the Great Lakes region, he added.
Mr. Byron and Mr. Pocar also urged consideration for the tribunals’ dedicated and experienced staff and judges who had been working tirelessly under tremendous pressure to meet completion deadlines, without sacrificing due process. The retention of qualified staff and committed jurists was essential to meeting those goals. Both tribunals were losing staff as work drew to an end. Judge Pocar called for cooperating with the Secretariat in that regard and asked the Assembly to consider the pension entitlements of Yugoslav Tribunal judges. Mr. Byron called for adjustments in the conditions of service of Rwanda Tribunal’s ad hoc judges.
The Prime Minister of Croatia, Ivo Sanader, took the floor to tell the delegation that “just punishment is the best deterrent” and must ensure a measure of respect for victims. With that in mind, the people of Croatia had been dismayed by the Tribunal’s 27 September ruling in the case of three officers of the former Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) convicted for their involvement in the 1991 massacre of 261 Croat patients taken from Vukovar hospital, tortured and killed in nearby Ovcara farms. The Tribunal delivered a judgement against the three officers: one was sentenced to 20 years in jail; another for five; and a third officer was acquitted.
“This judgement has caused consternation in Croatia and around the world,” not only because the crime had been particularly “cruel and horrific”, but because the Court’s decision “defied well-known and documented facts”. Croatia expected that, upon the prosecutor’s appeal, the Tribunal would carefully re-examine the verdict and act in accordance with the mandate set for it by the Security Council. “We ask for justice for all victims of Vukovar and elsewhere,” he said, adding that this was of paramount importance for the future of international criminal justice.
Serbia’s representative said, “Only by joint efforts can we solve the outstanding cases of apprehending remaining fugitives, notably Ratko Mladic and others.” His Government had been critical of the Yugoslav Tribunal in the past, and as a result, there had been differences regarding the level of cooperation between national authorities and the Prosecutor’s Office.
He agreed that the effective prosecution of war criminals was imperative and a prerequisite for reconciliation and peace on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. He called on other regional States to support the initiative to transfer persons convicted by the Tribunal to the countries of their respective citizenship. “There is no statute of limitations for war crimes, and national judiciaries, including Serbia’s, are obliged to proceed with such cases in the future.” Bringing to justice those who committed war crimes remained a lasting legal and moral obligation, he said.
Rwanda’s representative welcomed the progress in transferring cases to national jurisdictions, as that was essential to ensure that justice was done where crimes had been committed. Holding trials in a country was less costly and more efficient, since the evidence and witnesses were mostly in Rwanda, and local populations could see justice at work. Continued delay, in that matter, was causing substantial damage to the process and reputation of the Tribunal.
It was now more critical than ever to focus attention on the Tribunal’s legacy and residual issues, he added. Court documents and materials should be transferred to Rwanda after 2008 to help form the basis for an international education and research centre for genocide prevention. Training programmes for the Rwandan judiciary should also be accelerated and outreach activities strengthened.
At the opening of the meeting, the Assembly, acting on the recommendations of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), adopted a resolution, by the terms of which the Assembly would allow the Central African Republic, the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Tajikistan to vote in the Assembly until the end of its sixty-second session, deciding that their failure to pay the full minimum amount necessary to avoid the sanctions under Article 19 of the Charter was due to conditions beyond their control. [Under Article 19, Member States lose their right to vote in the General Assembly if the amount of their arrears to the Organization equals or exceeds their dues for two full preceding years.]
The representatives of Portugal (on behalf of the European Union), Canada (on behalf of Australia and New Zealand) and Norway also participated, as well as the representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Africa, the Russian Federation and Benin (on behalf of the African Group).
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 16 October, to elect five non-permanent members to the Security Council.
The General Assembly met this morning to consider the annual reports of the work of the United Nations International criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
The report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (document A/62/284-S/2007/502) covers the period from 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007. During that time, the three Trial Chambers rendered five judgements in cases involving five accused persons. Two other trials involving five accused have been completed and await judgements. One case has been transferred to the Netherlands. A new trial concerning one accused commenced in June 2007. In addition to the 27 cases involving 33 accused that have been completed in the first instance, trials involving 22 accused in 9 different cases are in progress. Eight detainees are awaiting trial. The Appeals Chamber rendered 4 appeal judgements in respect to 6 persons, 9 interlocutory decisions, 8 decisions on review or reconsideration, 1 decision on a referral appeal and 96 pre-appeal orders and decisions.
The Prosecutor continued efforts to secure the arrest of the remaining fugitives, the report states. He turned over 30 cases to Rwandan courts and entered into negotiations with States for the transfer of approximately 15 cases to national jurisdictions. The Registry played an instrumental role in providing administrative and judicial support, and in ensuring the assistance of Member States. Its Outreach Programmes conducted activities in both Arusha and Rwanda: support of 15 trials during the reporting period; support for defence teams of indigent accused persons or suspects; assistance to 280 witnesses and efforts to relocate protected witnesses; and promotion of the Tribunal’s work and capacity building in Rwanda. Rwanda has continued to cooperate with the Tribunal, facilitating the flow of witnesses from Kigali to Arusha and providing documents.
The report notes that sufficient resources must be provided to the Tribunal to complete its work. Member States are requested to accept the transfer of cases in order to further investigation and trials. Their assistance in the arrest of those indicted who are still at large and in the relocation of acquitted persons is also vital to the Tribunal’s successful completion of its work. In the process of achieving its mandate, the Tribunal contributes to bringing justice to victims of the massive crimes that were committed, and is continuously establishing a record of facts that will aid reconciliation in Rwanda. The Tribunal will leave a legacy of international jurisprudence that can guide future courts, deter the future commission of these grave crimes and prevent impunity by potential perpetrators.
Also before the Assembly is the fourteenth annual report of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (document A/62/172-S/2007/469), which covers the period from 1 August 2006 to 31 July 2007. During that time the Tribunal adopted measures aimed at increasing the efficiency of trial and appeal proceedings. For the first time, seven trials were conducted simultaneously in the Tribunal’s three Trial Chambers. The Appeals Chamber issued a record number of decisions. The Tribunal focused on senior-level individuals accused of the most serious crimes, while the Referral Bench disposed of all motions for referral, transferring 13 lower- to mid-level accused to the region. The Tribunal hosted working visits and training programmes for courts in the region to further the development of the rule of law in States of the former Yugoslavia.
The Prosecutor continued to focus efforts on securing the arrest of the remaining fugitives, the report states. Two arrests were made during the reporting period. The failure to arrest the four remaining fugitives, particularly Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, remains of grave concern with respect to the administration of justice. The Office of the Prosecutor has also strengthened relationships with prosecutors and courts in the region through training sessions, conferences and seminars and worked closely with Governments of States of the former Yugoslavia. The Office noted improvement in the cooperation of the Republika Srpska.
The report notes that the Registrar focused on identifying legacy issues, continued negotiations for witness relocation and the enforcement of sentence agreements, and concluded three new agreements. The Registry was crucial in providing administrative and judicial support and was also instrumental in ensuring the smooth transfer of rule 11 bis cases. Outreach Programmes supported 11 trials during the period, assisted numerous witnesses in The Hague, and worked to relocate protected witnesses.
The Office of Legal Aid continued assigning defence counsel to accused persons and responded to requests to facilitate self-representation by high-profile accused. By the end of the reporting period, the Tribunal had concluded proceedings against 106 of 161 persons charged. It is committed to meeting completion strategy targets, while ensuring that due process standards are fully met.
DENNIS BYRON, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, presenting the Tribunal’s twelfth annual report, said the Trial Chambers had rendered judgements involving five accused and more than 250 interlocutory and pretrial decisions. Trials of five other accused had been completed and awaited judgement. In addition, trials involving 22 other accused were in progress and judgements would be delivered early next year. As of today, the cases of the six remaining detainees were at the pretrial stage and were expected to begin early next year.
The Appeals Chamber had heard an increased number of cases between July 2006 and June this year, he said, noting that judgements on appeal had been delivered on six individuals, bringing the total number of completed appeals cases to 19. More than 100 interlocutory decisions and pre-appeal orders and decisions had been delivered. Four accused had pending appeals. He expected the Chambers’ workload to substantially increase.
Prosecutor Hassan Jallow’s efforts continued to focus on securing the arrest of those still at large, including Félicien Kabuga, he said. He thanked INTERPOL for its assistance in the arrest of three fugitives. The Registry continued to play a crucial role in the Tribunal’s work, providing administrative and judicial support to all trials. Member State cooperation was paramount to the successful accomplishment of the Tribunal’s mission, particularly in securing the arrest of the 15 accused still at large. The referral of cases and the serving of sentences for convicted persons were among issues that required assistance.
Strengthening Rwandan judicial capacity was a key component of the Tribunal’s mandate, he continued, noting that the Tribunal had provided support to the judicial and other sectors through capacity-building. He invited States to help sustain such projects, emphasizing that staff departures at the Registry also were on the rise, which could negatively impact the completion strategy. He called on States to develop a mechanism to address their concerns.
Paying tribute to all Judges who had contributed greatly to the Tribunal’s work, he called on the General Assembly to help adjust the conditions of service for ad litem Judges, who had become instrumental to the completion strategy. Since January 1997, the Tribunal had arrested 75 individuals from 90 indicted persons, including former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda and 14 members of his interim Government.
Recalling that the motive for establishing the Tribunal had been to bring peace to the Great Lakes region, he stressed that there were legal criteria by which it must be judged as a court. The explicit political purpose might best be served by its success as a court and the fairness of its process. It was critically important to ensure that essential fair trial rights were not prejudiced. The Tribunal had established an essential record of international humanitarian law violations committed in 1994 in Rwanda; its leading decisions were already providing guidance for national and international courts designed to enforce international humanitarian law, such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
He said there would be no lasting peace without a credible international justice perspective that united the Rwandan people and the Great Lakes region. He reiterated his unwavering commitment to the Tribunal’s mandate, implementation of its completion strategy and bringing justice to those most responsible for genocide and international humanitarian law violations in Rwanda in 1994. He requested continued assistance in the fight against impunity.
FAUSTO POCAR, President of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, spoke of the impact of the Tribunal in light of its unprecedented mandate at its founding. While demonstrating that international criminal law was enforceable and capable of contributing to the restoration of international peace and security, it had served as a catalyst for the proliferation of other ad hoc international or mixed Tribunals administering international criminal justice to Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, East Timor, Lebanon and for the establishment of the permanent International Criminal Court. The message of all those institutions was clear, he said -- “there will be no impunity where there is international will”.
He said that the International Tribunal was highly efficient, having issued more than three times the amount of judicial decisions than all the other criminal courts and tribunals taken together. Both Appeals and Trial Judges were working at full capacity. He commended the Judges for working to meet the completion strategy without sacrificing due process. In addition to its judgements, the Tribunal was focused on benefiting those countries on whose soil the conflict had been fought. Through transfer of cases to the region under rule 11 bis, the International Tribunal was helping to establish those courts, as national leaders in the prosecution of war crimes cases. The Tribunal had established a growing partnership between Judges and Prosecutors of the Tribunal and those of local courts, through conferences and training sessions throughout the region. In that way, and by granting access to its electronic databases for local war crimes trials of those not indicted by the Tribunal, the Tribunal was contributing to the furtherance of the rule of law.
The Registry, through its Outreach Programmes, was instrumental in gaining and sustaining the support of people in the region for the Tribunal and for the local prosecution of war crimes cases, he said. Local courts would carry on the true legacy of the International Tribunal: the ending of impunity. The international community must support local courts in ensuring the integrity of prosecutions of persons accused of serious violations of international humanitarian law. There was a particular need for the training of prison personnel and maintaining international standards in detention facilities.
He said that the Tribunal was working with the Security Council Working Group on ad hoc International Tribunals to establish residual mechanisms to handle issues that would remain following the completion of pending cases, such as outstanding fugitives, witness protection, and enforcement and commutation of sentences, among others. Both Serbia and Montenegro contributed to the arrest of two fugitives. The Tribunal remains concerned over the failure to arrest the remaining four, particularly Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Without their arrest and trial the Tribunal’s mission would not be completed. The relocation of witnesses was also essential to the completion of the Tribunal’s work.
He also expressed concern for what would become of the dedicated staff and Judges of the Tribunal as completion dates loomed. The retention of qualified staff and committed Judges was necessary to completing the Tribunal’s work. They were motivated by the cause of justice, but were under tremendous pressure from the speed at which they must work, annual assessments, and the pending completion of work. The Tribunal would work with the Secretariat on securing their future. Some were already leaving, which had an impact on the work of the Tribunal. He also asked that the Assembly consider the pension entitlements of Tribunal Judges, so that experienced judges would not feel compelled to leave the Tribunal.
The Assembly’s continued support was more vital than ever as the Tribunal’s work approached its end, he said. It was essential to the work’s completion and to the cause of international justice. “With each successful prosecution, the International Tribunal is shoring up the foundation of a still-nascent international system of criminal justice comprised of a growing number of international judicial institutions acting together in a coordinated partnership with domestic jurisdictions,” he said. “The International Tribunal’s pioneering role and its unprecedented body of practice of law will be its most significant achievement and the continuation of its work by local prosecutions of war criminals in the region its real legacy.”
IVO SANADER, Prime Minister of Croatia, said that his country had been one of the proponents of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia’s establishment and now, 14 years on, noted with satisfaction that many of the Tribunal’s mandated objectives had been reached. Nevertheless, though some of the major perpetrators had been prosecuted, peace had been restored and confidence was growing in the region, there was still room for improvement. Only from proper analysis of the Tribunal’s work could Member States draw precious lessons for the future, he said, stressing that the Tribunal’s role and the messages it sent through its work were extremely important today.
“By properly and justly prosecuting those responsible for war crimes in places like Vukovar, Srebrenica, or Rwanda, we should also discourage those willing, aiming to, or already doing the same thing today in places like Darfur and elsewhere,” he said, stressing that Croatia believed that one of the main aims of broad organizational reform should be enhancing the indispensable role of United Nations institutions in the prevention of gross human rights violations, and the promotion and protection of humanitarian law, as well as the rule of law in general. Turning to the work of the Tribunal, he said that no institution should be immune from criticism. A proper analysis of its work did not challenge its independence, but rather it was the only way to learn from experience for the benefit of international justice.
“Just punishment is the best deterrent,” he continued, adding that just punishment also ensured a measure of respect for victims, and it must serve truth and open the way to lasting peace, security and reconciliation. With that in mind, he said the people of Croatia were dismayed by the Tribunal’s ruling in the Vukovar patients’ massacre at Ovacara farm. In 1991, that peaceful town in northern Croatia on the Danube River had been attacked by the so-called Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). That attack had been elaborately planned, with lines of command clearly established by the political and military leadership of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in Belgrade.
He said that tens of thousands of troops with hundreds of tanks -- all under Serbian control -- laid siege to Vukovar for months, razing the once-peaceful city to the ground. The 52 mass graves uncovered in Vukovar testified to the brutality of the onslaught. In addition, families were expelled from their homes by the thousands, in what would later be revealed as a pattern of ethnic cleansing. The survivors of the siege were displaced and sought refuge in some 570 locations around the world. Vukovar was the site of “the worst crimes” committed by Milosevic’s regime, he said, recalling further that, during the Serb forces occupation of the city, 261 patients had been taken out of the city hospital to Ovacara farm, where they had been tortured and killed in cold blood.
Documents on some 190 of the exhumed victims confirmed that they had indeed been among the people taken from Vukovar Hospital. Those documents had been delivered to the Tribunal and the massacre had been included in the prosecution’s indictment against Milosevic. Late last month, some 16 years later, the Tribunal delivered a judgement to three former Yugoslav People’s Army officers; one was sentenced to 20 years in jail, another for five and a third officer was acquitted. “This judgement has caused consternation in Croatia and around the world,” not only because the crime had been particularly “cruel and horrific”, but because the Court’s decision “defied well-known and documented facts”.
Without a doubt, the killing and mistreatment of the patients at Vukovar were caused by premeditated and unlawful actions by the occupying Power. “We had a right to ask then, why the Geneva Conventions, whose principles were incorporated in the Statute of the ICTY, were ignored within the determination of the guild of these JNA officers?” he declared. At the time of the massacre the world had been shocked; 16 years later, the Tribunal’s verdict had been a new shock. He said that Croatia had been deeply wounded by the atrocities that occurred at Vukovar, and that the victims were still dearly missed by their families.
He had recalled those most painful memories because of the strong belief that they must be a reminder to the world of “never again”. That was where the responsibility of the Tribunal was so evident, for nothing encouraged crime more than impunity. Croatia expected that, upon the prosecutor’s appeal, the Tribunal would carefully re-examine the verdict and act in accordance with the mandate set for it by the Security Council. “We ask for justice for all victims of Vukovar and elsewhere,” he said, adding that this was of paramount importance for the future of international criminal justice.
Fairness, truth and justice, should help close the pages of recent history in South-Eastern Europe. He stressed that, while Croatia was ready to lead the way in that respect, one of the preconditions for lasting peace and stability in the region was the extradition of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, two of the most infamous indicted war criminals, as well as Goran Hadzic, indicted for war crimes in Vukovar and eastern Slavonia.
LUIS SERRADAS TAVARES, Director, Department of Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union and supported by affiliated countries, including, among others, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, said both Tribunals had made an invaluable contribution towards the shared goal of ending impunity for those who perpetrated genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. They had also played a key role in the development of international criminal law and had strengthened the rule of law, while promoting long-term stability and reconciliation in the Balkans and Rwanda.
To fulfil the completion strategies of each Tribunal, he said all stakeholders should now redouble their efforts to expedite the arrest and surrender of the remaining indicted fugitives, including Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. To that end, the European Union had imposed an assets freeze on indicted fugitives and a travel ban on persons assisting them in evading justice. The countries of the Stabilization and Association process ( Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania) would eventually be responsible for bringing justice to the victims of the conflicts and should, therefore, ensure their judiciary and police cooperated fully with the Tribunal to dismantle the support network of possible fugitives. Governments should not intervene in the work of domestic prosecution. Though the European Union welcomed Serbia’s recent efforts to improve cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, full cooperation would be necessary for the conclusion of the Stabilization and Association process.
In regard to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, he welcomed its achievements and encouraged Member States to conclude agreements on the relocation of witnesses and the enforcement of sentences to ensure further progress. The Rwandan judicial system and its capacity to prosecute transferred cases should be strengthened, as well as the outreach programme that raised awareness of the Tribunal’s work. There remained two outstanding challenges, namely, the question of fugitive indictees, and the proposed transfer of cases to Rwanda. He urged all States to fulfil their obligations in respect to the arrest and surrender of outstanding indictees, since neither Tribunal could succeed without the firm commitment of States to cooperate in accordance with their legal obligations. “The international community must not send the message that perpetrators of most serious international crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity can go unpunished,” he said. “Impunity is simply not an option.”
JOHN McNEE (Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said he fully supported implementing the completion strategies of both the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and also backed efforts to refer cases involving intermediate and lower-ranking accused to national jurisdictions as part of that strategy. Furthermore, he encouraged the international community to help strengthen national justice systems and welcomed Rwanda’s decision to formally abolish the death penalty in its own system.
However, he said, in order for the Tribunals to complete their work, countries needed to surrender all remaining indictees immediately, including Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Félicien Kabuga. States that continued to provide protection undermined not only the fight against impunity, but also commitment to the rule of law. Also, the Tribunals needed to pay attention to “residual issues” -– the practical and sometimes complex question of the judicial and other activities taking place after the last indictee had been tried.
JOHAN L. LØVALD ( Norway) said success of the completion strategy of each Tribunal would continue to depend on the assistance and cooperation of Member States. Norway urged Member States to demonstrate their full support by honouring their financial commitments on time, arresting and transferring fugitives to Tribunals immediately and entering into agreements regarding the enforcement of judgements.
Norway, he said, strongly backed the Tribunals’ external activities and involvement with local judiciaries. Further, active engagement with local judiciaries would help to ensure the capacity of local courts to continue the Tribunal’s future work.
PAVLE JEVREMOVIĆ ( Serbia) welcomed the Tribunal’s recognition of the support his Government had offered the Prosecutor’s Office in the past and said more support could be expected in the future. “Only by joint efforts can we solve the outstanding cases of apprehending remaining fugitives,” he said, “notably Ratko Mladic and others.” His Government had been critical of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the past and, as a result, there had been disagreements and objections regarding the level of cooperation between national authorities and the Prosecutor’s Office. However, overall, the positive contribution of the Tribunal was lasting and evident. The effective prosecution of war criminals was an imperative, as well as a prerequisite for reconciliation and peace in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Each national community should now concentrate on disassociating themselves, through a legal judiciary process, from the grave crimes that were committed in the past. That was also an indispensable part of the process of joining European integrations and shared values.
Successful completion of cooperation with the Tribunal was one of the objectives of the Serbian Government, he said. To that end, his Government was offering cash rewards for the arrest of fugitive indictees, including, among others, Ratko Mladic. The referral of cases to national jurisdictions required a strengthening of the capacity of domestic courts. Those transfers had already helped, in many ways, to achieve a full level of trust between the Governments of the Balkan region and international institutions and further facilitated cooperation with the Tribunal. Thanks to substantial reforms, his national judiciary was now able to legally process the most complicated cases, including the Ovacara and Suva Reka cases. He called on other States in the region to support the initiative to transfer persons convicted by the Tribunal to the countries of their respective citizenship. “There is no statute of limitations for war crimes,” he said, “and national judiciaries, including Serbia’s, are obliged to proceed with such cases in the future.” Bringing to justice those who committed war crimes remained a lasting legal and moral obligation.
JOSEPH NSENGIMANA ( Rwanda) said, as the Rwanda Tribunal neared the end of its mandate, it was now more critical than ever for the United Nations to focus its attention on the legacy and residual issues. In particular, court documents and materials should be transferred to Rwanda after 2008, so they could help form the basis for an international educational and research centre for genocide prevention. The Tribunal’s training programmes for the Rwandan judiciary should also be significantly accelerated and outreach activities should be strengthened.
His Government welcomed the progress made in transferring cases to national jurisdictions, he said. The transfer of cases was essential to ensure that justice was done where crimes were committed. It also complemented and reinforced ongoing Government policies towards reconciliation, which was central to the mandate of the Tribunal. On practical grounds, holding the trials in Rwanda was less costly and more efficient, since the evidence and witnesses were mostly in the country. Convicted criminals should also be transferred to national jurisdictions. By serving their sentences in the country in which their crimes were committed, local populations could see justice at work. He said continued delay in the matter was causing substantial damage to the process and reputation of the Tribunal.
In regards to indictees still at large, particularly Félicien Kabuga and Augustine Ngirabatware, he called on all Member States to work cooperatively to ensure that those concerned would not escape justice. Despite fairly good information about the whereabouts of many of those fugitives, there was still little progress in their arrests. Measures should be undertaken to ensure that all States cooperated in apprehending and handing over those fugitives for trial. Those who failed to do so should be brought to account. He concluded by expressing his appreciation for the support of the international community for the Tribunal and urged Member States to continue their commitment to ensure that the Tribunal had sufficient resources to work efficiently and effectively.
MILOŠ M. PRICA ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) expressed appreciation for the former Yugoslavia Tribunal’s recognition of the efforts made by his Government to cooperate, especially at the operational level. His Government would continue to cooperate fully with the Tribunal in the future. Indeed, it had already taken on additional measures on the ground aimed at targeting fugitive support networks, to further diminish the manoeuvring space for indicted fugitives.
He said a cooperation agreement between the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Office of the State Prosecutor of Bosnia and Herzegovina had resulted in significant progress in processing a number of war crimes cases, five of which had been transferred from the Tribunal. Further cooperation with and support for the Tribunal would continue in the future. In conclusion, he said the Tribunal should continue its work until all trials for persons indicted for war crimes were completed, including the cases of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) commended both Tribunals for their steps to ensure achievement of their completion strategies, and particularly welcomed measures taken to increase efficiency by holding several trials simultaneously and amending the Rules of Procedure to make optimum use of ad litemJudges. However, completion strategies were time-bound, and there were cases that must be referred to national jurisdictions. To that end, he commended countries that had accepted cases from the Tribunals.
His delegation was particularly keen to see countries in which crimes had been committed assume the responsibility of accepting referrals from the Tribunals, and he welcomed efforts to provide technical assistance to those countries to enable reform of their justice and prison systems. Indeed, justice sector reform was a critical element of post-conflict reconstruction and contributed to security sector reform. Noting it was important that indicted persons be brought to justice, he called for cooperation with the Tribunals to arrest and surrender them for trial.
He urged States to ensure that the Tribunals continued to receive sufficient resources. Cooperation was also needed in areas such as witness travel; pursuit and bringing to justice of fugitives; arrest and transfer of the accused; and the resettlement of those who had been acquitted. Further, the international community must address the issue of the Tribunals’ legacy to ensure that achievements be preserved.
As the Tribunals had been established by the Security Council to maintain international peace and security, he said they should be measured by the extent of their contribution to that objective. He believed the Tribunals had contributed immensely to stability and peace in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. To ensure preservation of their legacy, it was essential that the passage of time did not result in impunity for fugitives, and that the archives be located in a place where future generations could have access to them.
ILYA I. ROGACHEV ( Russian Federation) noted the active work of the Rwanda Tribunal, over the past year, and welcomed its transfer of cases to national judicial bodies, which would contribute to the timely completion of its work within Security Council deadlines. He called for strengthening the Rwandan judicial system. He also noted an improvement in the efficacy of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia’s work. He hoped that the transfer of two fugitives to the Tribunal would contribute to the timely completion of that work. He called for more cases to be transferred to national courts of the States of the former Yugoslavia and called on other international bodies to assist the Tribunal with witness protection.
The work of both Tribunals should be completed within the completion strategy deadlines, he said. The fact that Félicien Kabuga, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic and other accused had not been presented to the Tribunals should not be used as an excuse to extend their mandates indefinitely. The time had come for the two Tribunals to focus some of their efforts on the final phase of the organizational aspects of their work, in particular archive maintenance and providing their judges with pensions. That would lead to timely completion of the Tribunals’ work without supplemental expenditures.
Speaking on behalf of the African Group, JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU ( Benin) said the increased efficiency of the two Tribunals was a clear testimony to their commitment to the cause of international restorative justice and their completion strategies. Progress in implementing their completion strategies had been due to several major factors, particularly their leadership in exercising their mandates. He pointed out that they had focused on the prosecution of the most senior leaders suspected of crimes within their jurisdiction and transferred to national jurisdictions cases involving persons of lower- to mid-level responsibility. He highlighted the cooperation of Member States -- notably in the arrest and transfer of indictees to the Tribunals, protecting witnesses and organizing the prosecution of cases to their national jurisdictions. Member State and donor contributions had also been essential.
He said that the Tribunals’ work had constituted an historic example of multilateral cooperation and international law enforcement. He urged those concerned to support the Tribunals in the arrest and transfer of the remaining fugitives, according to their completion strategies. Moreover, the African Group called on Governments with which the Rwanda Tribunal was conducting talks on the referral of cases to national jurisdictions to actively cooperate with the Tribunal.
African countries that had agreed to host persons serving their sentences needed assistance in improving their penitentiary facilities, he continued. As the Tribunals’ proceedings had demonstrated the resolve of the States to strengthen the rule of law in regions affected by mass atrocities, the Group welcomed efforts to develop domestic jurisdictions, as they were of utmost importance for the Tribunals’ legacy, particularly in the area of jurisprudence. He further welcomed steps to manage archives efficiently. In closing, he encouraged the Tribunals to “maintain the dynamic of their activities” in order to render justice to the victims, also further promote national reconciliation, and help enhance the authority of international humanitarian law as a paramount pillar of human dignity.
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