Press encounter by the Secretary-General upon visiting the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [unofficial transcript]
Arusha, Tanzania, 27 February 2009SG: Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) enters the last phase of its completion strategy, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest respect and admiration to all the judges and prosecutors and registrars, and the many staff who have been working tirelessly for the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in Rwanda and in the broader Great Lakes Region.
If we look back and review what ICTR has achieved since its inception in 1994, I think we should be proud of what they have been achieving. They have had an instrumental role in preserving peace and stability and bringing an end to impunity. There are still some more cases pending, and there are 13 fugitives at large. According to certain sources, these fugitives seem to be in the Eastern and Central African regions. I would like to take this opportunity again to strongly urge all the countries in the region to render all possible cooperation in tracking and arresting those fugitives. It is important in the name of humanity, and to bring justice for all. And the ICTR, together with other tribunals, criminal tribunals like ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia], and one which is going to be launched as of March 1 in Lebanon, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which will be launched officially in the Netherlands, will have a very strong message to the international community, particularly to those perpetrators and potential perpetrators: that these crimes will never be allowed to enjoy impunity, and the human rights, and the dignity of the human being, should be respected and protected. This is a very important message. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I feel proud for what the ICTR has achieved until now, and I ask all the judges and prosecutors and registrars and all the staff to be committed to finish their remaining cases until the end of their mandate. This is the expectation of international community. I thank you very much.
Q: How realistic do you think is the completion strategy? And my second question is about the accused and acquitted people are still around, and UN Member States are not ready to accept that. What would you have to say about that?
SG: Everybody knew from the beginning that the lifespan of ICTR would be limited and the ICTR until now has taken 79 cases and has taken all the rendering judgment, and there are some cases still pending. I hope that judges and prosecutors will continue to do as much as they can to finish by the time the mandate expires some time in 2011. However, practical speaking, there may still be cases, and there may have to be some remaining administrative things, including preserving all the data and other administrative things. Then there needs to be some residual framework. The Security Council is looking at this issue. And there are some concerns again for the retention of positions by the many staff here. I am now taking this issue with sympathy, and I have been discussing this matter with the senior advisors of the United Nations funds and programmes to give a positive consideration for their future job applications. I will continue to work on this matter.
Q: About the second question about those acquitted and released people and still around, and Member States are not prepared to take them?
SG: It is important for the trials that the accused should be given expeditious proceedings and for the acquitted there should be again – since they have been acquitted – however they should feel responsible to serve as a citizen, what they can do, taking the lessons, what has happened in the past, and this tragedy and violation of human rights and crimes against humanity should never be repeated in the future.
Q: Secretary-General, do you have any evidence that countries in this region are providing safe haven for fugitives? And if so, which countries are they?
SG: According to some sources, we know that these fugitives at large seem to be somewhere in the Eastern and Central region of Africa. I do not have any concrete evidence, and even though there may be some, it may not be proper to disclose here for security reasons; it's up to Governments and countries to fully cooperate in accordance with Security Council resolutions to bring them to justice. That's the duty and responsibility of all Member States of the United Nations. Thank you very much.
Off-the-Cuff on 27 February 2009