As Tribunals for Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia Prepare to Formally Complete Mandates, Presidents, Prosecutors Brief Security Council on Achievements, Challenges

SC/12150
9 December 2015
7574th Meeting (AM)

As Tribunals for Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia Prepare to Formally Complete Mandates, Presidents, Prosecutors Brief Security Council on Achievements, Challenges

One of Nine Fugitives Still Sought By Rwanda Tribunal Just Arrested, Members Hear

With the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda set to formally close at the end of December, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia striving to complete its work by the end of 2017, the Presidents and Prosecutors of both bodies, as well as the President of the International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals briefed the Security Council today on their proceedings.

As the meeting unfolded, it was announced that one of the nine remaining fugitives being sought by the Rwanda Tribunal, Ladislas Ntaganzwa had been apprehended the night before in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he was being held in custody.  Mr. Ntaganzwa would be handed over to Rwanda authorities, where he would be tried under monitoring arrangements to be carried out by the Mechanism.

Vagn Joensen, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said that court had significantly impacted the evolution of international law through issuing novel judgments, including the first conviction for rape and sexual violence as a form of genocide.  Some of the milestones achieved over the past two decades included its forty-fifth and final judgment on appeal in the Nyiramasuhuko et al., also known as the Butare case.  The Rwanda Tribunal had brought indictments against 93 individuals, issued 55 first-instance judgments and 45 appeal judgments and heard the “powerful accounts” of more than 3,000 witnesses who recounted some of the “most traumatic events imaginable”.  It was also the first to pass a judgment against a Head of Government since the Nuremburg and Tokyo Tribunals.

He said the Tribunal’s referral programme as a whole had provided the international community with a model of how an international criminal court could cooperate with national authorities to rebuild justice sectors in conflict and post-conflict environments.  The completion of its core judicial work with other programmes, such as the implementation of genocide awareness-raising campaigns, had strengthened the capacity of the Rwanda judiciary.  Any success for the Tribunal was a success to the Security Council as it highlighted the possibilities, through justice, to fight impunity and to provide at least some comfort to the victims of heinous crimes.  

Carmel Agius, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said that body had been at the forefront in the fight against impunity for international crimes and was a symbol of the commitment to ensuring accountability for grave crimes.  It continued to play a pivotal role in both setting global standards for international criminal law and justice, and strengthening the rule of law at the local level. 

Yet, there were challenges which must be managed if the Tribunal was to meet its ultimate goal of closure in 2017, he said.  Most critically was the perennial and endemic problem of staff attrition.  The increasingly alarming drain of experienced staff was a serious threat to complete the mandate.  However, cooperation with the International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals would continue to ensure a smooth transition, in line with resolution 1966 (2010). 

Theodor Meron, President of the International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, said that the Mechanism had issued a number of judicial orders and decisions, including the enforcement of sentences, request for review of judgement, and applications for the variation of protective measures granted to vulnerable witnesses and victims.  In place were a number of new policies and other regulatory instruments, ranging from legal aid to access to archives.  Member States’ involvement and commitment was essential to ensure that the remaining fugitives were apprehended; the Council’s continued attention to that issue was vital. 

The Mechanism would not only be a credit to the United Nations and to the Security Council, but would also serve as a vital and continued embodiment of the international community’s dedication to the fight to end impunity, he said.  “In a world where armed conflicts still rage on continent upon continent, where atrocities against civilians continue unabated, and where international humanitarian law can still be violated with impunity […] we must not underestimate the need for, and the importance of, such symbols of our shared and continued commitment to accountability, to international law, and to respect for the rule of law,” he emphasized.

Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia stressed that State cooperation remained essential to enable the completion of work on schedule.  Although progress continued in national war crimes prosecutions, it was uneven and fragile.  Further efforts would require strong political commitment, he said, adding that senior Serbian Government ministers welcoming General Vladimir Lazarević, a convicted war criminal, back to Serbia upon his release last week sent absolutely the wrong signal. 

His Office had also completed a detailed assessment of its work on prosecuting conflict-related sexual violence crimes, to be published in April 2016.  “We have taken an honest look at the challenges we faced, the strategies we adopted, the results we achieved and the things we could have done better,” he said.  Still, the Completion Strategy was not simply a matter of winding down operations and transitioning responsibilities to national courts.  In a few months, the trial judgment would be delivered in the case against Radovan Karadžić, former President of Republika Srpska.  The significance of that moment should not be overlooked. 

Hassan Bubacar Jallow, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said that on 1 December, the Rwanda Tribunal had held its official closing ceremony in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania to mark the conclusion of its work and mandate subject only to the delivery of judgment by the Appeals Chamber in the Butare case, scheduled for 14 December.  “The ICTR will thus definitely close down by the end of this year,” he said, noting that it had been a long and challenging journey to ensure accountability for crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994. 

He called the Tribunal “the premier judicial institution” in elaborating law on genocide, and in registering other jurisprudential landmarks in the definition of rape, the link between sexual violence and genocide, and principles of command and superior responsibility.  Its closure, while a momentous event, was only the end of a chapter, as the global struggle for justice must be intensified, building on the legacies of both Tribunals.  “We must continue to respond through appropriate accountability mechanisms to mass atrocity everywhere,” which - as the Council had emphasized 20 years ago - was the pathway to peace and reconciliation, he underscored. 

In the ensuing debate, speakers hailed the Rwanda Tribunal’s considerable contributions not only to peace and reconciliation efforts in the Great Lakes region of Africa, but to establishing a framework for new tribunals in the future.  The experiences and lessons of the Tribunal would be written into the annals of history, China’s representative said. 

The arrest of Mr. Ntaganzwa was also noted, with the United States’ representative stressing said the remaining fugitives were at the fore of the Council’s focus until they stood to answer for their actions.  Such commitment had led to today’s arrest of by Congolese authorities. 

Welcoming efforts by the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal to complete its work in 2017, delegates noted with concern that delays might be caused by staff attrition, with most speakers supporting the request to extend the terms of the Tribunal’s judges.

However, the representative of the Russian Federation pointed out that the Council had met the Former Yugoslavia Tribunals’ requests for extensions and while steps had been taken to that end, they had not yielded results.  He urged the Tribunal to cut time needed for case completion.  Staffing issues could not be used as an excuse, as shortages were the result of the slow pace of trials

Delegates also urged States in the region to fully cooperate with the Tribunal and the Residual Mechanism, with the representative of Spain voicing concern at the lack of trials undertaken by national authorities, and noting that Serbia was lacking in executing arrest warrants. 

Nonetheless, representatives welcomed the smooth transition from the Tribunals to the Residual Mechanism, noting there was good evidence it was functioning well.  They urged Member States to continue their support for the Mechanism.

Rwanda’s representative invited those present to reflect on the international community’s common failure 20 years ago in her country, and to take stock and gage if any lesson had been learned from that reality.  Human rights violations and abuses were becoming the norm and if that trend persisted, the enjoyment of human rights would remain an elusive reality, she said.  Rwanda was determined to pursue the issue of the location of the repository of archives, as it should be of paramount importance they be preserved in Rwanda. 

The representative of Serbia said the domestic prosecution of international crimes committed in the armed conflicts of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia had been among the most important steps in reconciliation.  It was the collective duty of regional countries to investigate and prosecute those responsible, without any discrimination against the perpetrator or the victim on the basis of national, ethnic or religious origin.  He noted that despite the fact that many civilians of Serb ethnicity in Operation Storm had been killed, the judiciary in Croatia had passed only one final conviction for the war crime of murder. 

Croatia’s representative drew attention to the Šešelj case and the “toxic impact” of Vojislav Šešelj’s temporary release.  The fact that that an indicted war criminal was allowed live appearances on Serbian reality television was regarded by his victims as a slap in the face of international criminal justice and humanity itself.  He called on Serbia to comply fully with the Former Yugoslav Tribunal’s requests.

The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina noted that his country had always fully cooperated with the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal and had implemented all its decisions and rulings.  The completion of the court’s mandate did not mean the end of the fight against impunity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Government would continue to strengthen the national justice system in order to bring perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice.

Representatives of Chile, Chad, Malaysia, Nigeria, Jordan, Angola, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Venezuela, New Zealand, and France also spoke.

The meeting began at 10:16 a.m. and endedat 1:30 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to hold its semi-annual debate on the ad hoc international tribunals, and to consider several documents.  Among them were:  the report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (document S/2015/577); report of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (document S/2015/585); a letter dated 16 November 2015 from the President of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (document S/2015/874); a letter dated 17 November 2015 from the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (document S/2015/884); as well as two letters dated 17 November and 20 November 2015 from the President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (documents S/2015/883 and S/2015/896, respectively).  Those letters are addressed to the President of the Council.

Briefings

CARMEL AGIUS, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, noted that the Tribunal’s closure would be extremely challenging.  However, cooperation with the International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals would continue to ensure a smooth transition, in line with resolution 1966 (2010). 

During the reporting period, four trials involving four individuals, and three appeals involving 10 individuals, were ongoing, he said.  One of those appeals, the Stanišić and Simatović case, was scheduled to be finally disposed on 15 December.  On 14 December, the Appeals Chamber would deliver its judgment in one of the largest appeal cases ever – the Butare case [Prosecutor vs. Nyiramasuhuko] which was an appeal from a Rwanda Tribunal judgment, signalling the end of that body’s judicial work.  That would leave four trials and two appeals pending before the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal.

The Former Yugoslavia Tribunal had experienced some delays, he said, of which were outlined in his letter to the Council (document S/2015/874).  In the trial of Goran Hadžić, on 26 October the Bench had decided to stay the proceedings.  While the accused was still fit to stand trial, his health had prevented his detention in The Hague.  The decision to stay had been taken for an initial, renewable three-month period, an appeal for which had been lodged by the Prosecution.  Challenges such as the health of the accused were beyond his control and required ongoing assessments.

As well, “significant” progress had suffered setbacks, he said, noting that both the Karadžić and the Šešelj trials would not be decided before the end of the year, as had been forecast.  Nonetheless, the drafting of the judgment in the “extremely complicated” Karadžić trial was at a “very advanced” stage, and the presiding judge had assured him that proceedings would come to an end before the end of March 2016.  He also hoped that the Šešelj trial would conclude by the same date.

The Mladić trial and the appeals in the Stanišić and Župljanin and Prlić et al, remained on target, he said.  As the Prlić et al. case was the “most voluminous” appeal case in the Tribunal’s history it required more time and “adequate, uninterrupted” resources.  The Appeals Chamber was committed to completing that case by November 2017.  He was in constant dialogue with the presiding judges to identify potential delays and work towards early solutions.  Judges and staff were working diligently to complete judicial work, which he expected to be completed on time. 

However, he said, there were challenges which must be managed if the Tribunal was to meet its ultimate goal of closure in 2017.  They were not new and had been brought to the Council’s attention by his predecessors.  Most critically was the perennial and endemic problem of staff attrition, as the increasingly alarming drain of experienced staff was a serious threat to complete the mandate.  Staff morale was also a problem.  The Registrar had developed a fair and transparent downsizing process in consultation with the Staff Union, and had offered a career transition advisor to staff for help in transitioning to other the other areas of employment.

The Tribunal had been at the forefront in the fight against impunity for international crimes and was a symbol of the commitment to ensuring accountability for grave crimes, he said in conclusion.  It continued to play a pivotal role in both setting global standards for international criminal law and justice, and strengthening the rule of law at the local level.  Critical to its broader success was an understanding of its work, particularly by the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

VAGN JOENSEN, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, giving an update of the Tribunal’s impending closure, said that some of the milestones achieved over the past two decades included its forty-fifth and final judgement on appeal in the Nyiramasuhuko et al. — or the Butare case.  As well, the Rwanda Tribunal had included 5,800 days of proceedings in which it brought indictments against 93 individuals, issued 55 first-instance judgments and 45 appeal judgments and heard the “powerful accounts” of more than 3,000 witnesses who recounted some of the “most traumatic events imaginable”.  The Tribunal had significantly impacted the evolution of international law through issuing novel judgments, including the first conviction for rape and sexual violence as a form of genocide.

The Rwanda Tribunal was also the first to pass a judgment against a Head of Government since the Nuremburg and Tokyo Tribunals, he continued.  The Tribunal’s referral programme as a whole had provided the international community with a model of how an international criminal court could cooperate with national authorities to rebuild justice sectors in conflict and post-conflict environments.  He commended the role of the Government of Rwanda for providing support and cooperation as the Tribunal conducted its investigations and obtained evidence to the atrocities committed.  Since the Security Council determined that the Rwanda Tribunal would have its seat in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Tribunal had received unwavering support from that country’s Government in security, travel of witnesses and the Tribunal’s detention facility. 

With respect to the issue of reparations for victims of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, he said his final study would be issued in due course and, thereafter, transmitted to the relevant stakeholders.  The issue of relocating the acquitted and convicted released persons residing in Arusha remained a serious challenge to the credibility of international criminal justice.  The completion of the Tribunal’s core judicial work with other programmes, especially those conducted in Rwanda, such as the implementation of genocide awareness raising campaigns, workshops and trainings, had strengthened the capacity of the Rwanda judiciary. 

In its final month of operation, the Rwanda Tribunal would continue to ensure that the knowledge gains and lessons learned throughout its existence were not only passed on to its successor, the Mechanism, but were also shared with other national and international jurisdictions.  The Tribunal directly strengthened the capacity of national criminal justice systems to prosecute effectively international crimes and would continue to help future triers of international crimes long after its closure, he said.  Any success for the Tribunal was a success to the Security Council as it highlighted the possibilities, through justice, to fight impunity and to provide at least some comfort to the victims of heinous crimes.

THEODOR MERON, President of the International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, said that the Mechanism had issued a number of judicial orders and decisions, including the enforcement of sentences, request for review of judgement, and applications for the variation of protective measures granted to vulnerable witnesses and victims.  All three of the Mechanism’s organs had continued preparations for the anticipated appeals following the Karadžić and Šešelj trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and for the trials of the remaining fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

In place were a number of new policies and other regulatory instruments, ranging from legal aid to access to archives, he said.  The Mechanism was also continuing to supervise the enforcement of sentences in a number of States.  Important advances had been made in the preparation and transfer of records from the Tribunals to the Mechanism.  At the Arusha branch, the Mechanism had increasingly assumed responsibility for remaining functions of the Rwanda Tribunal, including responsibility for the United Nations Detention Facility, in anticipation of the that Tribunal’s closure at the end of the year.  As well, progress had been made on the construction of the Mechanism‘s permanent premises in Arusha.

However, the Mechanism had continued to face challenges, he said.  In 2012, a number of individuals indicted by the Rwanda Tribunal had yet to be arrested.    The involvement and commitment of Member States was essential to ensure that those fugitives were apprehended; the Council’s continued attention to that issue was vital.  Another challenge involved the resettlement of a small number of persons acquitted by the Rwanda Tribunal or who had completed their sentences.  The Mechanism was dependent on the international community to solve the humanitarian challenge posed, which was a challenge to and for international justice itself.

Noting that the Mechanism had achieved much over the initial period of its operations, he stressed that its success depended on new ways to ensure economy and efficiency, taking full advantage of the Mechanism’s novel structure and legal framework.  Its Statute had provided for single Judges to address most matters at first instance.  But even in assignment of a multi-Judge panel, significant savings could be made as a result of pre-trial and pre-appeal Judges carrying out preparatory work.  The work by the full bench would also be conducted remotely when possible.

The Mechanism would not only be a credit to the United Nations and to the Security Council, but would also serve as a vital and continued embodiment of the international community’s dedication to the fight to end impunity, he said.  “In a world where armed conflicts still rage on continent upon continent, where atrocities against civilians continue unabated, and where international humanitarian law can still be violated with impunity […] we must not underestimate the need for, and the importance of, such symbols or our shared and continued commitment to principles accountability, to international law, and to respect for the rule of law,” he emphasized.  That respect for the rule of law must be paramount.  It was more important than ever that the Council take all possible steps to ensure the important tools at its disposal in the fight against impunity, such as the Mechanism, realize their full potential.

SERGE BRAMMERTZ, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, giving an overview of efforts to complete the work on the Tribunal’s final cases, said that four trials and three appeals were ongoing.  His Office was awaiting the issuance of trial judgments in the Karadžić and Šešelj cases.  He also remained focused on responding to the evidence presented by the defence in the Mladić case.  Describing other cases, he said attrition remained a persistent challenge.  His Office, however, was overcoming those challenges and had continued to downsize, abolishing 50 per cent of posts since January 2014.  In the final phase of the Tribunal’s mandate, he would increasingly look to the Mechanism for support.

While countries of the former Yugoslavia continued to cooperate with his Office, State cooperation remained essential to enable the completion of work on schedule, he stressed, adding “I trust therefore that in regard to the contempt case made public last week, Serbia will continue its recent record of full cooperation and appropriately execute the Tribunal’s arrest warrants.”  Regarding the Category II cases his Office had transferred to national prosecutors, he had previously expressed concerns with delays by the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  That country’s Chief Prosecutor had assured him that prosecutorial decisions would be taken in all remaining Category II cases by the end of the year and that pledge had been honoured.

He reported that throughout the region progress continued in national war crimes prosecutions, although it was uneven and fragile.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Prosecutor’s Office had reported that it had filed a significant number of indictments in the last few years.  In Serbia, important results continued to be achieved, including in regional cooperation and the exhumation of mass graves.  As the accountability process in Serbia was at a critical crossroads, further progress required strong political commitment.  The fact that last week, senior Government ministers welcomed a convicted war criminal, General Vladimir Lazarević back to Serbia upon his release sent absolutely the wrong signal.  In Croatia, authorities had begun exhumations of a mass graves believed to contain the remains of Croatian Serbs killed during Operation Storm and Category II cases had been transferred from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia.

It was clear, however, that throughout the former Yugoslavia, more accountability could and should be achieved, he said.  Many notorious incidents remained unresolved.  Impunity remained the rule for senior and mid-level leaders who had planned, ordered and facilitated crimes.  Regional cooperation continued to face many challenges, and in some respects had regressed.  Those challenges could be addressed with political will and appropriate technical assistance.  Missing persons from all sides of the conflict must be found and identified.  Far too many families still did not know the fate of their loved ones.  He called upon all States in the region to encourage witnesses, including perpetrators of the crimes, to come forward with information about missing persons.  The safety and security of such individuals must be guaranteed.

He said his Office had completed a detailed assessment of its work on prosecuting conflict-related sexual violence crimes, to be published in April 2016.  “We have taken an honest look at the challenges we faced, the strategies we adopted, the results we achieved and the things we could have done better,’ he said.  That process had underscored the need for similar legacy processes.

He said the former Yugoslavia was one of the most successful examples of complementarity in international criminal justice.  Yet, the Completion Strategy was not simply a matter of winding down operations and transitioning responsibilities to national courts.  It was anticipated that in a few months, the trial judgment would be delivered in the case against Radovan Karadžić, former President of Republika Srpska.  The significance of that moment should not be overlooked.  The Karadžić and Šešelj trials perhaps best exemplified why the Tribunal had been created, as well as the many challenges that still should be overcome.  “For that reason, their successful completion will be an unmistakable demonstration of the commitment shown by the Council, the United Nations and its Member States to international peace, security and justice,” he said in conclusion.

HASSAN BUBACAR JALLOW, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said the Mechanism had taken over the functions of the Office of the Prosecutor of the Rwanda Tribunal, and continued to do so in respect of the former Yugoslavia Tribunal.  Tracking the three fugitives earmarked for trial by the Mechanism had intensified.  “We are deploying considerable efforts to secure their arrest and trial before the Mechanism,” he said, along with support from other law enforcement authorities.  He again requested the Council to urge all States to cooperate in the arrest and transfer of fugitives.

Turning to judicial activities, he cited a significant increase in motion practice in the Mechanism, noting that in the last six months alone, the Arusha branch and The Hague branch had been engaged in litigation in 23 cases.  The staff of the Mechanism’s Prosecutor Office, having been downsized, was being increasingly called on to multitask in order to maximize the use of resources.  Other strategies as well had been adopted towards maximizing efficiency, including delaying recruitments to adapt to changes in the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal’s trial schedule.  Intense preparations were underway for possible appeals in the cases of Vojislav Šešelj, Radovan Karadžić and Goran Hadžić in the coming months. 

Assistance to national jurisdictions continued, he said, noting that the Mechanism had handled 135 requests for assistance from eight States and international organizations, bringing the total to 343 requests in the last year.  It had taken over the bulk of investigation and prosecution records and material from the Rwanda Tribunal, with the remaining items to be transferred after delivery of the Butare judgment on 14 December.  The Rwanda Tribunal’s evidence collection database, shared network drives and equipment, and vault containing physical evidence of its Prosecutor’s Office had been transferred to and were now managed by the Arusha branch.  The Hague branch continued to work with the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal’s Prosecutor to prepare for a gradual handover of the Prosecutor’s records to the Mechanism.

Turning to the Rwanda Tribunal, he said that on 1 December, it had held its official closing ceremony in Arusha to mark the conclusion of its work and mandate subject only to the delivery of judgment by the Appeals Chamber in the Butare case.  “The ICTR will thus definitely close down by the end of this year,” he said, noting that it had been a long and challenging journey to ensure accountability for crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994. 

He said the Rwanda Tribunal would close having indicted 93 persons selected on the basis of their leadership status, extensive participation in genocide and in the commission of specific horrific offences.  All but a few had been arrested and, with a few exceptions, prosecuted in 5,800 days of court proceedings, he said, adding that thus far, 75 had been tried, with 61 convicted of genocide and related offences and 14 acquitted. 

He called the Tribunal “the premier judicial institution” in elaborating law on genocide, and in registering other jurisprudential landmarks in the definition or rape, the link between sexual violence and genocide, and principles of command and superior responsibility.  Its closure, while a momentous event, was only the end of a chapter, as the global struggle for justice must be intensified, building on the legacies of both tribunals.  “We must continue to respond through appropriate accountability mechanisms to mass atrocity everywhere,” which - as the Council had emphasized 20 years ago - was the pathway to peace and reconciliation, he underscored.

Statements

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), while recognizing the important progress made, took note of the remaining challenges in the final phase of work, especially in the former Yugoslavia Tribunal.  He welcomed the firm commitment to spare no effort to abide by the deadlines for the specific cases and expressed support for the extension of the judges’ terms.  The cooperation of certain States, the international community and the Council continued to be crucial in the fight against impunity.  The work achieved by the Rwanda Tribunal was an important milestone and its legacy would be useful for new Tribunals in the future.  The situation of fugitives and relocation of peoples released or acquitted merited the Council’s attention.  Cooperation with the Closure Strategy was the best way for the Council to contribute to international justice.  The Tribunals were the model to follow to strengthen the rule of law, peace and justice.

GOMBO TCHOULI (Chad) said the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal’s considerable efforts to complete its cases had raised hope that the projections regarding the rulings and completion of its work would be respected.  Yet, despite progress made, that Tribunal continued to encounter difficulties due to the departure of qualified staff, which could cause delays and postponements.  Efforts should be made to retain staff.  The request for extension of judges’ terms should be responded to positively.  Noting the completion of work by the Rwanda Tribunal, he paid tribute to the judges and staff who, under difficult conditions, had carried out their task in a dignified manner.  However, it was regrettable that some fugitives were avoiding justice, he said, appealing to all to cooperate more with the Mechanism in order to apprehend them.

RAMLAN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) welcomed the fact that both Tribunals were on track towards meeting their respective completion dates.  However, noting the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal’s challenges, in particular with regard to staff attribution and the request for extension of the terms of service for its judges, he called for continued support to overcome those issues.  Turning to the Rwanda Tribunal, he underlined the importance of preserving the legacy of that body as its closure approached.  The preservation of judgments, testimonies and other records would provide a basis for future international tribunals and serve as a reminder to mankind of the importance of combatting impunity.  He also encouraged concerned States to continue their cooperation so that the Tribunals and the Mechanism could fulfil their respective mandates.      

KAYODE LARO (Nigeria) commended the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal for working to complete its mandate, noting that its outreach programme had contributed to transitional justice.  “This is a noteworthy legacy”, he said, commending the media office in that regard.  The Rwanda Tribunal, on 15 November had completed its trial work and had transferred the outstanding cases to other judicial authorities.  The fact it was dealing with its final appeal case was a significant indication of its work.  He noted that it was on course to close on 31 December.  The smooth handover of most of its judicial and prosecutorial functions to the Mechanism was laudable, he said, encouraging Member States to cooperate with the Mechanism.

EVGENY T. ZAGYNOV (Russian Federation), recalling resolutions 2193 (2014) and 2194 (2014) in which the Council had met the Tribunals’ requests for extension, urged the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal to cut time needed for case completion.  While steps had been taken to that end, they had not yielded results.  Such a situation did not alleviate his Government’s concerns; staffing issues could not be used as an excuse, as shortages were the result of the slow pace of trials.  One trial was unprecedented in its length.  Vojislav Šešelj had spent 11 years in pre-trial detention, an “outrageous” situation in a case whose hearing had been completed in 2012.  He urged that all necessary measures be taken for that Tribunal to complete its work.  While the Rwanda Tribunal would close by 31 December, that was one year after the Council’s deadline.  It had dealt with most serious crimes and had risen to the challenges, albeit not without difficulties and mistakes.  For its part, the Mechanism had “found its feet” and he said he trusted that it would be as effective as possible, given the temporary nature of its mandate, which he hoped would increase the effectiveness of its work.

MAHMOUD HMOUD (Jordan) said the establishment of the Tribunals stemmed from the need to end the most atrocious international crimes and ensure that justice was rendered.  They affirmed that international criminal justice, stability and peace went hand-in-hand, and had made “major” progress in delivering on their objectives.  Welcoming that the Rwanda Tribunal had met its deadline, he expressed concern about the fugitives and called on the Mechanism to work for their apprehension in line with resolution 1966 (2010).  The Tribunals’ achievements in the rule of law testified to efforts to support their work.  They had played a key role in developing international criminal law, among other areas, and he urged other judicial bodies to learn from their experiences.  He also urged continued support to the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal.  Countries of the former Yugoslavia should continue to cooperate with the Tribunal and the Prosecutor, he said, encouraging a smooth transition to the Mechanism.

FRANCISCO GASSO MATOSES (Spain) welcomed the commitment of the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal to conclude its work by the deadline but noted that the loss of staff put at risk the swift conclusion of pending cases.  He voiced his support for the requested extension of Judges’ terms.  He also expressed concern at the lack of trials undertaken by national authorities.  Welcoming the cooperation of the authorities of Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina with the Prosecutor he noted, however, that Serbia was lacking in the execution of arrest warrants.  Turning to the Rwanda Tribunal, he said it was a historical moment for that body, adding that its legacy would remain as a testimony of the horror of genocide and as proof of justice served.  He called upon States to cooperate fully by arresting the remaining fugitives.  The Mechanism should learn from lessons and practices developed by both Tribunals.  The creation of the Tribunals constituted a milestone in international criminal law and their legacy was invaluable.

JOÃO GIMOLIECA (Angola) said the Tribunals had played a crucial role in promoting the rule of law and ending impunity.  The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had provided numerous lessons, among others, on tracking fugitives and the closing of its operations was a landmark.  It had also contributed to reconciliation in the Great Lakes Region.  Apprehending the remaining fugitives was now a priority for the Mechanism.  While calling on the former Yugoslavia Tribunal to complete its work expeditiously by 2017, he expressed concern at delays caused by staff attrition.  The Mechanism would now assume full responsibility of the Tribunals. It was critical to ensure the cooperation and support of the international community to the tracking of fugitives.

LI YONGSHENG (China) congratulated the Rwanda Tribunal in completing its work. It had punished the most serious crimes and promoted the development of international criminal law.  Judicial activities had also played a role in promoting peace and justice in the Great Lake region.  The experiences and lessons of that Tribunal would be written into the annals of history.  He also welcomed the fact that Former Yugoslavia Tribunal would reach a verdict shortly in two appeals cases, but noted delays in other cases.  He also said he hoped the Council’s review of the Mechanism would point out areas for improvement, including keeping the necessary level in staff and resources to a minimum.  The Tribunals and the Mechanism represented the efforts of the international community to punish the most serious international crimes.

HELEN MULVEIN (United Kingdom) said she understood the challenges of staff attrition and voiced hope that those at the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal would see their roles through to the end of the mandate.  She expressed disappointment that the completion dates in the Karadžić case and the Šešelj case had been delayed.  She welcomed that other outstanding appeals were on track.  Noting that national war crimes prosecutions in Serbia were at a crucial point, she voiced concern about the President’s October letter regarding the country’s non-compliance with the Tribunal related to three arrest warrants and called on Serbia to cooperate.  While looking forward to the Rwanda Tribunal’s final judgment in the Butare appeal, she welcomed today’s arrest of one fugitive.  She urged all States, including Rwanda, to cooperate with the Mechanism to ensure arrest of those at large, adding that she looked forward to the International Organization for Migration assessment of victim reparations.  She also welcomed the Mechanism’s progress on new permanent premises in Arusha and an update on The Hague branch.  The Council was conducting its first review on the Mechanism and there was good evidence it was functioning well.

NIDA JAKUBONĖ (Lithuania) said the Tribunals had played a key role in consolidating the rule of law and promoting reconciliation and long-term stability.  Acknowledging the milestone of the Rwanda Tribunal completing its mandate, she noted that since its creation, it had played a significant role in the development of international criminal law and international humanitarian law by recognizing sexual violence as acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Furthermore, the Tribunal had provided support to the victims and witnesses, and assisted in capacity building and legacy preservation.  While the Tribunal was completing its work, there were defendants that still remained fugitives.  In order to arrest them, the cooperation of all States was necessary, she underlined.  On the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal, she encouraged the authorities to take all appropriate measures to complete their work expeditiously, while ensuring that trials and appeals were conducted fairly.

RAFAEL RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) voiced his support for the work of the Tribunals and the Mechanism in their efforts to bring to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.  The work undertaken had reaffirmed the commitment of the international community to combat impunity and those efforts had contributed to strengthening the rule of law at the international level.  Although progress had been made by the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal, he underscored his concern that several causes were only at the first stage, adding his hope that the trials could be concluded by the deadlines submitted.  The Rwanda Tribunal had completed its work, and with the many lessons learned, represented a legacy that would enrich the work of other bodies, including the International Criminal Court.  He encouraged authorities to apprehend the remaining fugitives as soon as possible.  The Mechanism should support the relocation of those acquitted or released, he said, welcoming that body’s strategic plan adopted in that regard.

GERARD VAN BOHEMEN (New Zealand) said his country had played a leading role in pushing the Security Council to respond to the unfolding genocide in Rwanda, and had taken the initiative in preparing the draft Statute.  Looking back at what the Tribunals had achieved, he said that the Council had made the right decision in establishing those bodies.  He commended all countries that had cooperated with the Tribunals to help bring accused persons to trial, yet expressed regret that the 15-member body had failed to provide enough support to the Tribunals and the International Criminal Court.  Voluntary funding was not adequate for tribunals to carry out their work, and the Member States needed to have a serious conversation about how to ensure accountability for serious international crimes.  Looking forward, he reiterated his country’s support for the Residual Mechanism, which had an important role to play as the Tribunals were completing their work.

ALEXIS LAMEK (France) encouraged the Security Council to thoroughly review the report by the International Residual Mechanism, and more generally expressed support to external reviews of all international criminal jurisdictions.  He underlined the importance that the Tribunals, while achieving their work, continued to administrate justice efficiently and in accordance with the guarantees of due process.  The credibility of the international criminal justice system relied on it.  Recognizing the achievements by the Tribunals in combatting impunity and promoting reconciliation, he said that today’s debate should serve at identifying what Member States should do to preserve those gains.  For more than 20 years, the Rwanda Tribunal had been at the forefront of the global fight against impunity.  Now that its mandate was coming to an end, its legacy served as a foundation for a new era in international criminal justice.  For its part, France was committed to fully cooperating with the Tribunal and the Mechanism with regard to fugitives targeted by international warrants.  On the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, he noted that concerned States now had the responsibility to continue efforts towards the consolidation of the rule of law, with the independence of the judiciary fully guaranteed.  Addressing the cases of “intermediary” criminals should remain a national priority for those States and regional cooperation and assistance were critical in that regard.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) said the fugitives of the Rwanda Tribunal, Fulgence Kayishema, Charles Sikubwabo, Aloys Ndimbati, Augustin Bizimana, Charles Ryandikayo, Phénéas Munyarugarama, Félicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya, were at the fore of the Council’s focus until they stood to answer for their actions.  Such commitment had led to today’s arrest of Ladislas Ntaganzwa by Congolese authorities, who stated they would transfer him to Rwanda.  Mr. Ntaganzwa, indicted in 1996, had been charged with five counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, as well as the preparation and carrying out of the massacre of 20,000 Tutsis at one particular parish, the killing of thousands of others elsewhere, and the ordering of women to be brutally raped.  The United States was offering up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or transfer of the eight remaining fugitives.  Turning to the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal, he welcomed the Trial Chambers’ efforts to ensure that judgments were delivered in a timely manner.  The Council had been unable to adopt a simple resolution recognizing a fact established by the International Court of Justice that genocide had taken place in Srebrenica.  While that text had been vetoed, the findings by the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal could not.  He urged a focus on the future, using today’s meeting as a commitment to respond to potential crimes in Burundi, Syria, South Sudan or beyond. 

VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia) said that when it came to the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, not much had changed in the last six months.  Verdicts were still being awaited in some pivotal cases involving the “masterminds” of some of the most horrendous crimes, he said.  The slow pace in those proceedings remained a serious problem, and Croatia reiterated the importance of the completion of the remaining trials in the cases of Vojislav Šešelj, Goran Hadžić, Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić.  He drew attention to the Šešelj case and the “toxic impact” of his temporary release.  The fact that that an indicted war criminal was allowed live appearances on Serbian reality television was regarded by his victims as a slap in the face of international criminal justice and humanity itself.  He called on Serbia to comply fully with the Tribunal’s requests, reminding that country that their full cooperation with the body remained an essential condition for the candidate country in its accession process to the European Union.

SAŠA OBRADOVIĆ (Serbia) said that the domestic prosecution of international crimes committed in the armed conflicts of the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia had been among the most important steps in reconciliation.  It was the collective duty of regional countries to investigate and prosecute those responsible, without any discrimination against the perpetrator or the victim on the basis of national, ethnic or religious origin.  Notwithstanding the recognition by both the Tribunal and the International Court of Justice that Croatian Government forces killed many civilians of Serb ethnicity in Operation Storm, the judiciary in Croatia had passed only one final conviction for the war crime of murder.  He would still like to hear from the Croatian Government over what was being done to bring justice to the Serbs, many of whom were “gunned down at the threshold of their house doors or strafed from the air in helpless refugee columns as they fled their homes”.

The provision of information and evidence in the Tribunal cases was a commendable example of two-way cooperation, he continued.  It benefited both the fight against impunity domestically, and the completion strategy of the Tribunal.  Efforts had to be intensified by the Serbian side, which must process war crime cases that did not exclusively involve Serbian nationals suspected of committing crimes against nationals of other States.  That statement was supportive of the existing scope of jurisdiction of the Serbian judiciary, which was recently impugned in the European Parliament.  Twenty years ago, a peace agreement was signed to put an end to the armed conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, he said, highlighting that only one leader, Slobodan Milošević, was indicted while the Presidents of the other two countries died before they could stand trial.

MILOŠ VUKAŠINOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said that the work and practice of the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals had had a significant impact on international criminal law and national legal systems of concerned countries.  Since the very beginning, Bosnia and Herzegovina had fully cooperated with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and had implemented all its decisions and rulings.  His country continued to cooperate today with the Tribunal, and would continue to do so with the Mechanism.  The completion of the Tribunal’s mandate did not mean the end of the fight against impunity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  The Government would continue to strengthen the national justice system in order to bring perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice.  The implementation of the National Strategy for War Crimes Processing was a complex process, but had led to important results such as a 15 per cent decrease in the number of unresolved cases in Prosecutors’ Offices, as well as progress in the resolution of Category II cases.  In September, his State had adopted the Justice Sector Reform Strategy for the period 2014-2018, which would further consolidate the rule of law.  That would include the independence of the judicial system, as well as support the implementation of the National Strategy for War Crimes.  Concluding, he expressed his country’s commitment to regional cooperation.

JEANNE D’ARC BYAJE (Rwanda) invited those present to reflect on the international community’s common failure 20 years ago in her country, and to take stock and gage if any lesson had been learned from that reality, as well as if the Council was better equipped to stop future genocide.  Human rights violations and abuses were becoming the norm as the international community became accustomed to suffering which was affecting the well-being of people.  If that trend persisted, the enjoyment of human rights would remain an elusive reality.  Rwanda related to the adverse consequences of such crimes against humanity.  Drawing from the country’s history by which intolerance had led to marginalized communities, the current leadership was combating genocide denial and making sure all citizens were treated equally.

As the end of the Rwanda Tribunal was nearing, she said that her country’s Government believed that the body had played a key role in producing a substantial body of jurisprudence.  Deploring that fugitives were still at large, she reiterated the call to Member States harbouring them to honour their obligations under the Genocide Convention and collaborate in their arrests.  In other outstanding issues, Rwanda was determined to pursue the issue of the location of the repository of archives, as it should be of paramount importance they were preserved in Rwanda.  The compensation of victims of genocide remained a dark spot, she said, comparing to how the gacaca courts had treated that issue.  Thanking the Tribunal judges and staff for their contribution to humanity, she added that genocide was not an ordinary crime.  Its effects lingered forever.  Rwanda would continue to do its part and expected the United Nations and the international community to do theirs.

For information media. Not an official record.