Security Council Members Commend Contribution of International Tribunals to Global Criminal Justice, Declaring Legacy Will Be ‘Etched into Ledger Books of History’
Security Council Members Commend Contribution of International Tribunals to Global Criminal Justice, Declaring Legacy Will Be ‘Etched into Ledger Books of History’
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6880th Meeting (PM)
Security Council Members Commend Contribution of International Tribunals to Global
Criminal Justice, Declaring Legacy Will Be ‘Etched into Ledger Books of History’
Chiefs of Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia Courts Brief,
Describe Start-Up of International Residual Mechanism
The President of the new global mechanism for criminal tribunals tasked with prosecuting war crimes committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s and the 1994 Rwanda genocide today told the Security Council that making criminal justice sustainable in the long run greatly depended on demonstrating that it could be efficient, effective and affordable for the international community.
The new International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals had the potential to build on the achievements of its predecessors by creating a “model institution” that represented the international community’s strong commitment to fight impunity, said Theodor Meron, President of that institution, as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
Part of that fight meant being prepared to conduct trials of the three fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda — Félicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya and Augustin Bizimana. With that in mind, he called on the Council to “lead by example” when the Mechanism sought the cooperation of States in those and other efforts.
As the Mechanism moved into its first year of operation, pursuant to Security Council resolution 1966 (2010), the Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were approaching the fulfilment of their completion strategies, as their mandates were set to expire at the end of the month.
Providing an update on progress, Mr. Meron and the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, along with the Prosecutors of their respective courts, briefed the Council on the status of the completion strategies.
Regarding work on the Rwanda Tribunal, Mr. Meron said while some cases were on time or ahead of schedule, there were some setbacks in completion dates. He said predicting the end of a trial was more akin to an art than to a science. Yet, the Tribunal’s work had already borne fruit.
“Despite some delays in the completion of the Tribunal’s trials and appeals, there is no doubt that the work accomplished so far and the legacy it will leave are already of profound significance,” he said. “It has transformed the face of international justice forever. The Tribunal has been instrumental in bringing about a new era of accountability and a new commitment to justice within the international community at large. These accomplishments are priceless.”
Of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, its President Vagn Joensen reported steady progress, but cautioned that in the coming months, major challenges would be the completion of the transition and preparation of archives for handover amid the departure of key staff prior to the planned abolition of posts.
Both Presidents were worried about the pending expiration of terms of judges expected to sit in the Appeals Chamber, and stressed that their further extension was imperative to allow completion of all cases. In addition, they expressed concern over the problem of finding countries to receive acquitted persons, noting that there were five such persons who remained in the safe houses in Arusha, one having been there for more than six years since his acquittal was confirmed.
The Prosecutors of both courts also delivered reports, with Hassan Bubacar Jallow, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, highlighting progress in concluding trials and increasing the appellate workload, with his Office currently litigating 31 appeals arising from nine cases, as well as preparing records for archiving by the Residual Mechanism. Following the commencement of the Mechanism’s Arusha branch, he had been able to hand over to its Registrar the records of some 27 cases, with more to come.
In addition to preserving that legacy, he reported that, in cooperation with prosecutors from other courts and with financial support from Canada, he was able to participate in the finalization of a Compendium of Lessons Learned, which had been launched on 1 November. He was also pleased to report that since the Residual Mechanism’s operation in July, its focus had been on tracking Mr. Kabuga, Mr. Mpiranya and Mr. Bizimana, and preparation for their arrests. The clear message for the fugitives was that “tracking will not cease” until they were brought to justice, either before an international mechanism or an appropriate jurisdiction, to account for their deeds.
Indeed, the success of the Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia would ultimately be measured by the success of the transition from its work to national war crimes prosecutions, said Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor for that court. Regrettably, national authorities continued to face difficulties in prosecuting war crimes cases, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which already had a backlog of hundreds of such cases.
To help to find solutions, his Office had focused on building capacity in the region, including strategies to channel expertise to national authorities. Intensifying work on its legacy project on prosecuting sexual violence, his Office was also exploring ways to best transfer its expertise to regional counterparts.
Following their presentations, Council members and concerned States voiced praise for the Tribunals’ work and their efforts to fulfil the completion strategies. Speakers recognized the challenges and delays, and many called for yet another extension of judges’ tenures, emphasizing the importance of the courts’ legacy. The United States’ speaker said preserving the courts’ legacy allowed their cases to be etched into the ledger books of history and fostered respect for the rule of law, enhancing prospects for peace.
Concerning the new Residual Mechanism, established to carry out essential functions after the closing of the Tribunals, several speakers appreciated the President’s interest in making it effective and efficient, and expressed hope that, in the wake of the courts’ efforts, it would further strengthen rule of law.
While most praised the impartiality of the Tribunal’s acquittal on 16 November of two Croatian generals, the Russian Federation’s representative and Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence questioned the fairness.
The representatives of Guatemala, France, Germany, China, United Kingdom, Portugal, Azerbaijan, Togo, Colombia, Pakistan, India, South Africa, Morocco, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Rwanda also spoke.
The meeting began at 3:12 p.m. and ended at 6:43 p.m.
The Security Council met this afternoon to hear updates on the work of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (respectively, documents S/2012/592 and S/2012/594). It would also consider the first progress report of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (document S/2012/849), which contains the assessments of the President and Prosecutor. The Mechanism was established by resolution 1966 (2010) to carry out essential functions after the closing of the Tribunals.
Covering the period from 1 July to 5 November 2012, the report notes the start of the Mechanism’s operation and preparations for its continuing work. Its judicial activities included the Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism’s first decision, which upheld the Tribunal’s decision to transfer the case of Phénéas Munyarugarama to Rwanda for trial proceedings.
The Mechanism, states the report, is also responsible for witness support and protection relating to nearly 3,000 individuals, and for tracking the remaining fugitives and cases referred to national jurisdictions. In assuming jurisdiction over enforcement issues, the Registrar had conducted an assessment mission to Mali and Benin, where 19 and 13 persons, respectively, were serving their sentences. The report also outlines the Office’s responsibilities vis à vis archives and records, State cooperation, assistance to national jurisdictions and outreach and external relations. Among recent tasks was the website launch.
Also discussed are preparations for and the opening of the Prosecutor’s Office in Arusha on 1 July. The Office inherited functions from the Rwanda Tribunal, including staffing, tracking and prosecution of remaining fugitives and appeal proceedings, and continued provision of assistance to national jurisdictions, responding to 23 requests from 11 countries. The Office also performed functions, including archives preservation and management and monitoring cases transferred to national jurisdictions.
THEODOR MERON, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said the court was making excellent progress towards completing its work. At the trial level, the Haradinaj et al. judgement had been issued days ago, the Tolimir trial judgement was scheduled for next week and the Karadzic trial should conclude by 31 December 2014.
The Hadžić and Mladic cases should finish in 2015 and 2016, respectively, he said, adding that delays in trials included the Prlić et al., Stanisic and Zupljanin, the Stanisic and Simatović and the Šešelj cases, which should finish next year. Regarding appellate work, judgements in the Gotovina and Markac and the [ Milan] Lukić and [Sredoje] Lukić cases had been delivered early or on time, with the Perišić case expected to be completed in early 2013.
Other cases were on schedule, and some had been completed earlier than planned, he said, noting that significant advances had been made on completion dates for appellate cases, while almost all others were on track.
However, myriad challenges existed, causing delays in trials and appeals. He underscored that predicting the end of trial dates was more akin to an art than to a science. The Tribunal was located far from where the conflicts had taken place and the number of charges and crime sites involved were of an unparalleled scale. Setbacks had also arisen due to a range of issues, including staff changes, illnesses, witnesses’ refusal to testify, slow responses of States to answer requests, and translation delays. Those were daily challenges, but they were met with tenacity by the judges and staff, aimed at concluding work in a timely and orderly fashion.
“Despite some delays in the completion of the Tribunal’s trials and appeals, there is no doubt that the work accomplished so far and the legacy it will leave are already of profound significance,” he said, highlighting that the court had established “a robust and authoritative body of jurisprudence” on customary international humanitarian and criminal law, addressing everything from crimes of sexual violence, international criminal procedure and the erosion of the traditional distinction between the laws applicable to international and internal armed conflicts.
Indeed, he said, the Tribunal “has transformed the face of international justice forever”. It had been “instrumental in bringing about a new era of accountability and a new commitment to justice within the international community at large. These accomplishments are priceless.”
With the end of all but three trials in 2013, there would be a refocus on the Appeals Chamber, with an estimated 16 appeals from judgements from both Tribunals. Highlighting that the necessary number of judges would not be available for redeployment to the Appeals Chamber, he was concerned about the increasing work load and had requested in his 29 October letter to the Secretary-General extending the terms of office of the permanent judges and certain ad litem judges, which were currently due to expire by 31 December.
Turning to his report on the Residual Mechanism, which commenced its mandate 1 July in Arusha, he said the institution was fully functional. It had begun issuing orders and decisions and taken over witness support and protection activities. In addition, it was engaged in monitoring sentence enforcement and cases transferred to national jurisdictions while providing assistance to States for domestic investigations and prosecutions.
Preparations were also well under way for launching The Hague branch, he said, noting that the Residual Mechanism offered a unique opportunity to be involved in building an international criminal institution from the ground up. Yet, in overseeing its creation and operations, he wished to demonstrate to the international community that fairness and efficiency were not mutually exclusive. Making international criminal justice sustainable in the long run greatly depended on demonstrating that it could be efficient, effective and affordable, he said, pointing out that that approach had been used in achievements accomplished so far, including “double-hatted” judges serving in the Tribunal and Mechanism.
Although the lion’s share of the Mechanism’s judicial work would be in appeals, it would nevertheless be prepared to conduct trials of the three fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Félicien Kabuga, Augustin Bizimana and Protais Mpiranya. As their arrests were a top priority for the Mechanism, which would seek State cooperation, he called upon Council members to lead by example on that critically important issue.
The Mechanism had the potential to build on the achievements of its predecessors by creating a “model institution” that represented the international community’s strong commitment to the fight against impunity, he said in closing.
VAGN JOENSEN, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, reported that the transition from the Tribunal to the Arusha branch of the Residual Mechanism was now well under way and progressing according to plan since its opening on 1 July. With the transfer of nearly all judicial functions and the imminent completion of the final genocide trial, the administrative energies of the Tribunal were increasingly spent on downsizing and providing the necessary support to the Mechanism to allow it to assume the full functions of the Tribunal upon its closure. In the coming months, major challenges would be completion of that transition and preparation of archives for handover amid the continued departure of key staff prior to the planned abolition of posts.
The Tribunal, he said, continued to focus on reducing the judicial workload, having referred three additional cases to Rwanda during the current reporting period. The workload consisted now of just one trial judgement, allowing the completion schedule to remain on track. Only one referral request awaited final conclusion, namely the Munyagishari case, as the referral decision was currently under appeal, with a ruling expected in early 2013. Unless the decision was reversed on appeal or arrests were made in the two contempt of court/false testimony cases that would not go to the Mechanism, the Tribunal would only have to finish the pending appeals, which were projected to be completed by the end of 2014, with three appeals concerning seven persons to be delivered by the end of 2013 and the final four appeals involving 10 persons expected by the end of 2014.
Updating the Council on the extension of trial judges’ terms to allow completion of all cases, he said further extension requests were imperative to the timely completion of remaining work. In addition, staff recruitment, retention and separation remained a challenge. The downsizing process continued apace, with an overall reduction of more than one third of the authorized 2010-2011 levels expected by the end of 2013, although ensuring a fair and transparent manner of downsizing posts continued to strain staff.
He appealed to the Security Council once more to assist with what he called “our perilous problem of finding countries to receive acquitted persons”, noting that there were five such persons who remained in the safe houses in Arusha, one having been there for more than six years since confirmation of his acquittal.
Turning again to the transfer of records to the Mechanism, he said that by the end of 2012, the Tribunal would be in a position to transfer 25 per cent of its hard copy records, with the actual handover taking place when the renovations of the record repository were completed. The target date for completion of the process was December 2014, bearing in mind that records in active use could not be handed over. As the Tribunal became the first ad hoc court to complete its trials, he expressed faith that the Council’s creation of the Mechanism would continue its important work and further the evolution of global criminal justice.
SERGE BRAMMERTZ, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said the court’s major goal had been met during the last reporting period, with the commencement in October of the case of Goran Hadzic, accused of the first crimes committed in 1991 in the former Yugoslavia; it was expected to conclude in mid-2013. Significant progress had been made in three other remaining cases, and the Appeals Division was preparing for an influx of work.
He said that day-to-day cooperation by States of the former Yugoslavia with his Office remained crucial for the successful completion of trials and appeals, and noted that Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina continued to respond in a timely manner. Serbia had intensified its efforts to investigate support networks responsible for helping fugitives, including Mladic and Hadzic.
Success of the Tribunal would ultimately be measured by the success of the transition from its work to national war crimes prosecutions, he said. Regrettably, national authorities continued to face difficulties in prosecuting war crimes cases, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which already had a backlog of hundreds such cases and no prospect of meeting its war crimes strategy deadlines. One of the problems was the limited capacity of State- and entity-level courts. Comprehensive measures must be taken to remedy the situation.
To help to find solutions, his Office had focused on building capacity in the region to prosecute war crimes, including strategies to channel expertise to national authorities. Intensifying work on its legacy project on prosecuting sexual violence, his Office was also exploring ways to best transfer its expertise to regional counterparts. He encouraged national authorities in the region to continue the fight against impunity within their jurisdictions, including through increased cooperation. His Office would provide support to achieve those goals.
HASSAN B. JALLOW, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, described progress in processing cases. The conclusion of trials, he said, had substantially increased the appellate workload, with his Office currently litigating 31 appeals arising from nine cases, though he expected the timely conclusion of that workload by 2014. Its reduction would result in a considerable downsizing of his Office this year and early next year.
He said that the preparation of records for archiving by the Residual Mechanism had progressed well. Following the commencement of the Mechanism’s Arusha branch, he had been able to hand over to its Registrar the records of some 27 cases. The remaining records would be transferred when they were properly processed and no longer required for active use. In addition to preserving that legacy, he was pleased to report that in cooperation with prosecutors from other courts and with the financial support of Canada, he was able to participate in the finalization of a Compendium of Lessons Learned, which had been launched on 1 November. The Compendium was available to national and international prosecutors and should provide guidance on some of the difficult aspects of investigation and prosecution of mass crimes. Other lessons-learned projects were also in the works, and manuals on the investigation and prosecution of gender-based violence, as well on management of victims and witnesses, were now being finalized.
Turning to the operation of the Prosecutor’s Office at the Residual Mechanism, he said recruitment of core staff was expected to be completed in the coming months. Since its opening in July, that body had focussed on the tracking of the three top fugitives — namely Félicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya and Augustin Bizimana — as well as preparation for arrests of those fugitives along with the servicing of foreign requests for assistance and the monitoring of cases referred to national jurisdictions. The tracking of the fugitives had been intensified in the past six months and would remain a priority, with work in Kenya, Zimbabwe and with other countries and organizations in the region, extending beyond Africa. The cooperation of all Member States was essential. “For the fugitives themselves, the clear message is that tracking will not cease,” until they were brought to justice, either before an international mechanism or an appropriate international jurisdiction, to account for their deeds.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) paid tribute to the commitment of the staffs of the Tribunals in advancing their mandates and completion strategies. He welcomed progress made by the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. On the Rwandan court, he welcomed the carrying out of the completion schedule, but stressed that the Tribunal could not finish its work without the arrest of fugitives and appealed to neighbouring States to provide full cooperation in that regard. He also urged States to cooperate with the Tribunal in the relocation of acquitted persons. Welcoming the contribution of the Tribunals in the re-establishment of the rule of law, he pledged his country’s continued support for them, noting that they were, among other things, an inspiration for the International Criminal Court. Welcoming the opening of the Residual Mechanism, he said it was important to ensure there was no gap in witness protection, monitoring of transferred cases and other important functions.
BÉATRICE LE FRAPER DU HELLEN (France) reiterated the importance to her country of the work of the two Tribunals in the fight against impunity and the duty “to remember”. She thanked them for their accomplishments, faced with immense challenges. On the Rwandan Tribunal, she welcomed reports showing that the completion work was on track and stressed her country’s support for the transfer of referrals to national jurisdictions, including for cases brought before the French courts. She also underscored the importance of cooperation of all Member States in the apprehension of outstanding fugitives. Noting that her country had received acquitted persons, she called for others to do so. She expressed support for the extension of judges’ mandates.
She similarly supported judges’ extensions for the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and hoped that the court could complete its activities as quickly as possible. Nothing, however, should undermine the rendering of justice in the grave crimes involved. Stressing that the decisions of international criminal justice applied to all, she added that the duty to respect victims was equally universal. All atrocities committed against civilians in the former Yugoslavia must be prosecuted. States of the region must mobilize to carry out local proceedings in that regard; complete cooperation in matters of justice remained an important consideration in integration into the European Union.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia exhibited neither fairness nor effectiveness, pointing to the recent acquittal of Croatian generals. Justice was not done in that case, he claimed, with witnesses subjected to intimidation and other irregularities. The court discredited the idea of international criminal justice and stirred up distrust in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. In that context, why, he asked, should the justices of the court be extended? Their remaining work could be absorbed by the Residual Mechanism. In any case, the lengthiness of the Tribunal’s proceedings was unmatched. Its work must be completed within set deadlines. Independent experts could be called in to assess and assist completion of work with necessary quality. He would approve extensions only under strict conditions.
PETER WITTIG ( Germany) reiterated his country’s full support for both Tribunals, praising their contribution to international criminal justice and the fight against impunity. He acknowledged their successes and challenges as described by their principals. He praised Rwanda for strengthening its judicial system to allow cases to be tried under national jurisdiction, called for serious efforts to bring remaining fugitives to justice and appealed for relocation destinations for those who had been acquitted. Both Tribunals showed that international justice did exist, and they were owed full respect for their standards of justice. Recognizing that some recent judgements of the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal had provoked strong emotions, he called for their respectful expression. The regional countries must continue their efforts to fulfil their obligations, he said, expressing alarm over the announced intention of Serbia to reduce its cooperation to a technical mode only.
GUO XIAOMEI ( China) said that since June, the two Tribunals had overcome difficulties and made steady progress. The Rwanda Tribunal had continued successfully in transferring cases to the national jurisdiction, and appeals were expected to be completed by the end of 2014. Despite efforts by the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal, many trials had been delayed and cases could not be completed pursuant to resolution 1966 (2010), she said, suggesting that efforts should be speeded up while ensuring systematic justice. She congratulated the Mechanism on its work to date and hoped tracking fugitives would end successfully with cooperation from neighbouring States. She also hoped the same success would follow the opening of The Hague branch, and called on States to work with the Tribunals and the Mechanism on their respective goals.
PHILIP PARHAM ( United Kingdom) said all States should respect the two Tribunals’ work, as cooperation by all parties was essential. Progress must continue on the Mladić and Hadžić case, and he encouraged all sides to respect the verdicts of all Tribunal judgements. The domestic prosecution of war crimes also needed attention. Timely completion of all Tribunal trials was essential, and he supported the judges’ extension, he said, adding that neither justice nor effectiveness would be served by micromanaging in this Council. He encouraged all Member States to assist in apprehending and bringing to justice the nine fugitives wanted in connection with the Rwanda Tribunal. He also urged the resolution of the matter of finding States to host acquitted individuals now in safe houses in Arusha. The Council and the victims of the atrocities committed owed a great deal to the Tribunals, but that was not the end. Domestic justice was needed to ensure that every perpetrator was held accountable.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) appreciated the efforts being made by the Tribunals with respect to their completion strategies and said the Council must remain appraised of developments to ensure their smooth implementation. He was pleased to hear reports that trials and appeals were on schedule. However, he was concerned about challenges, including the management of resources. Commending the outreach efforts made by the Tribunals, he acknowledged the need to continue to provide them with adequate funding to continue that useful work. He shared the concerns over domestic prosecutions and said cooperation among States in the region was crucial in that regard. He agreed with previous speakers on the need to address the situation of acquitted persons remaining in safe houses in Arusha.
SAMIR SHARIFOV ( Azerbaijan) welcomed the launch of the Mechanism, and noted that the Rwanda Tribunal appeared to be on track, while the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had completed 128 cases out of 161 indicted individuals. Measures taken to transfer cases would continue to strengthen the capacity of national judicial systems and reinforce the rule of law. It was important for the concerned States to remain committed to cooperating with the Tribunals, which had already contributed to advancing international law. He hoped their work and that of the Residual Mechanism would strengthen implementation of the rule of law.
KOKOU NAYO M’BEOU ( Togo) said that the two Tribunals had known different fortunes: that of the former Yugoslavia had no fugitives and some delays, while the Rwanda Tribunal would soon be able to close its trial activities. The Security Council should consider the difficulties for the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal in having to push back dates for cases. He was pleased that cases were being transferred and that the closing of the Rwanda Tribunal did not mean impunity. The Council should stay well informed of such developments, he said, adding that it must be ensured in the transfers that rights were respected. Welcoming the active role of the Tribunals concerning witness protection, he said fears were being assuaged that the end of the courts meant the end of protection. He was pleased with efforts to meeting the goals of the completion strategies.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) praised the valuable contributions of the Tribunals, as well as their hard work in completing their activities. Welcoming the commencement of the work of the Residual Mechanism, he said that the Rwandan branch had an important role to play in monitoring cases transferred to national jurisdictions, so that the rights of the accused were respected at all times. Cooperation of Member States was needed in the work of the Mechanism, as well as in the arrest of remaining fugitives. The Council must reiterate the need for cooperation by all States in that context. Welcoming the Tribunals’ contributions to ending impunity, he favoured extensions for the justices needed to finish completion strategies.
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), commending and supporting the two Tribunals for their contributions to delivering international justice and ending impunity, said he was constructively engaged in the working group to decide on the duration of the judges’ extensions. He was pleased at the arrangements for transferring archives from the Rwandan court and expressed hope that the court for the former Yugoslavia would follow suit in a timely manner. Noting the challenges to the completion process, he called for timely conclusion of all activities, while ensuring the maintenance of the highest legal standards. The legacies of the Tribunals must be preserved because of their contribution to international law.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) said that prevention of atrocities and seeking justice for the perpetrators was a core priority of his country. He welcomed progress made by both Tribunals in the reporting period, including the establishment of the Residual Mechanism. Recognizing the substantial work that remained, he welcomed efforts to improve efficiency, looking forward to future measures that economized costs while maintaining the highest standards in procedures. He commended the Rwanda Tribunal for expediting trials in that context, and looked forward to proposals for dealing with the challenges.
Welcoming progress by the Rwandan court, he called on all Member States to cooperate in the arrest of fugitives, noting that his country offered rewards for assistance in their capture. He stressed the importance of monitoring referred cases and welcomed workshops and other means of strengthening national judicial capacity. Preservation of the Tribunals’ legacy allowed their cases to be etched into the ledger books of history and fostered respect for the rule of law, enhancing prospects for peace. He pledged his country’s continued unwavering support for those efforts.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) welcomed the progress of the two Tribunals in expediting their work and keeping the establishment of the branches of the Residual Mechanism on schedule. He commended Tribunal principals, as well as the courts’ outreach activities. Acknowledging staffing concerns, he said that careful consideration should be given to the proposals by the judges to address those challenges. The issue of relocation of acquitted persons should be resolved soon, as well. He hoped for the arrest of the three fugitives in connection with the Rwandan Tribunal, and stressed that both courts must remain fair and impartial without political considerations. He supported extension of the judges’ tenures.
ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa) said that it was understood from the beginning that the Tribunals would not exist indefinitely, and for that reason, he looked forward to accomplishing the dual objectives of the Residual Mechanism. Development of standards for referrals to national jurisdiction would be a particularly important accomplishment of the Tribunals and critical in the overall effort to encourage complementarity between national and international justice. Commending the Rwandan court’s attention to efficiency, he welcomed the commencement of the operations of the Arusha branch of the Residual Mechanism. He urged increased cooperation in the arrest of remaining fugitives, as well as continued cooperation between the two Tribunals as they transitioned to the Residual Mechanism.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) welcomed the progress made by the two Tribunals with a view to completion and transition to the Residual Mechanism. In the Rwandan case, he acknowledged all the preparatory work that had gone into the beginning of the transition, and welcomed the manner in which it was bringing its work to a close, including enabling the national legal system to take on much responsibility. On the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal’s branch of the Mechanism, he hoped that the commencement of its operations would take place in a timely manner, while he acknowledged the challenges in meeting the court’s completion strategy. He hoped efficiency methods would mitigate the problems. He called for dialogue between all administering units to allow the Council to understand in depth the problems of both Tribunals so it could make the proper decisions.
ALEKSANDAR VUČIĆ, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Serbia, said that for his country this was not an ordinary meeting, but an opportunity to state that international law should be applied to all evenly rather than selectively. Serbia fulfilled its international obligations and contributed to international justice and reconciliation in the region. His country had handed over to the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal fugitive indictees and had responded to its other requests.
However, he said, Serbia’s faith in international justice had experienced a blow after the 16 November decision absolving Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač of the responsibility for crimes committed against the Serbian civilian population. Describing the bloody attacks on Serbian populations, he said the general attack, Operation Storm, on 4 August 1995, had horrific results; more than 250,000 Serbs had been expelled or fled the bloodshed. The United Nations and European Union representatives had witnessed numerous crimes against the Serbian population during the attack, under the command of Mr. Markač and Mr. Gotovina, including massive killing, looting and burning of entire villages in north and south sectors. If they were not guilty of those crimes, who was?, he asked.
This was not the first time that the Tribunal concluded that crimes had occurred, but that neither the indictees nor anyone else was found to be responsible. To add insult to injury, it was well known that a significant number of witnesses had been killed under extremely suspicious circumstances or had refused to testify after being pressured, he said.
In addition, in 1998 and 1999, Ramush Haradinaj had organized and carried out terrorist attacks against members of the army of Yugoslavia. He also pointed to crimes committed against Serbian, non-Albanian and Albanian populations in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, he said, going on to name individuals who had been brutally killed and maimed.
The Tribunal’s important task was to contribute to the reconciliation efforts in the Western Balkans, yet, in more than a decade, it had convicted former Serbian political and military leaders, but had failed to convict a single senior official from Croatia or Bosnia, or to convict a single senior Kosovo Albanian official for war crimes or crimes against humanity, he said.
“If the Security Council is serious about furthering reconciliation in the Balkans, it is critical now to avoid any perception of impropriety or undue influence,” he said. “That is why the Security Council must be actively involved. The only thing that Serbia is asking for is justice. Nothing more, nothing less.”
RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia) said his Government had advocated the Tribunal’s creation as a much-needed development that signalled opposition to the culture of impunity, which had prevailed for centuries in matters concerning responsibility for crimes committed during war and armed conflict. Acceptance of the substantiated truth was a prerequisite to reconciliation. Croatia could understand the frustration of those who had developed their positions based on attempts to create a false sense of parity, which equated criminal policy with individual crimes committed “on the other side” without Government sanction. However, it could not accept reactions that were tantamount to rejecting the Tribunal’s decisions. All States must respect their legal commitments.
He said the Tribunal had confirmed that Croatia had not been involved, nor had it conducted any joint criminal enterprise, and that there was no Government policy to plan or commit war crimes. On an individual level, crimes — including war crimes — had been committed on the Croatian side, and Croatia had prosecuted those involved. He called on other successor States of the former Yugoslavia to process war crimes committed by their citizens. Serbia had criticized the verdict in the case of retired Croatian generals, but any grievances should be addressed to the Tribunal’s founding body. Croatia was deeply committed to the reconciliation between the successor States and fully supported regional cooperation in the area of war crimes. He regretted that Croatia had not received a response from the Serbian side to its 2012 draft bilateral agreement on such matters.
MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) said that the legacy of the two Tribunals should be a strong message that no one is above the law and that the crimes that claimed lives in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda would nowhere be tolerated. She hoped that in their final stages, the Tribunals would be able to swiftly overcome last challenges to confirm that message. Reassignment of judges was a positive and necessary step in that regard. She stressed that no crimes confirmed by the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal should go unpunished. Her country carried the greatest burden of prosecution of war crimes, having successfully processed more than 100 cases since 2005, and all those transferred in line with Tribunal rules had been completed. However, some 1,300 cases remained to be processed, and she agreed that cooperation between countries in the region was highly important in that context. Welcoming the establishment of the Residual Mechanism, she reiterated her country’s commitment to fulfil its obligations towards victims in ensuring accountability for all crimes.
EUGENE-RICHARD GASANA ( Rwanda) commended the Rwandan Tribunal for its accomplishments, hoping it would be able to complete its remaining work. Much more needed to be done, however, including the arrest and transfer of remaining fugitives. He encouraged all countries to arrest them — not to harbour them or direct negative campaigns towards his country. He pledged cooperation to successfully complete trials referred to Rwandan jurisdiction, but he expressed concern over delays in processing cases referred to French jurisdiction. He called on France to expedite those procedures.
Noting the Residual Mechanism’s function of monitoring sentences, he said he had been informed that convicts sent to Mali were allowed to leave their cells and live a comfortable life in that country. He called for an investigation of those reports. Welcoming work on transferring archives to the Residual Mechanism, he maintained that although genocide was a crime against humanity as a whole, the Tribunal’s archives were an important heritage for the Rwandan people. For that reason, his Government had requested their eventual transfer to his capital, Kigali. He underscored the part played by Rwandan Gacaca courts in bringing justice in hundreds of thousands of local cases resulting from the genocide and he pledged his country’s continued work with the Council and the Tribunal itself in helping to bring about the completion of its important work.
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