Briefing the Security Council today, officials of the mechanism created to finish the work of the international tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia requested both increased cooperation from Member States and adequate financial support to complete their judicial work during 2020.
Carmel Agius, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, presented the fifteenth progress report of the Mechanism, underscoring that the principles, judges and staff of the Mechanism were aware of the importance of succeeding in its mission and were working tirelessly to discharge their duties as effectively and efficiently as possible. Giving an overview of the progress made in cases in the branches in Arusha and The Hague, he described harmonizing procedures between the two locations and the consideration of such issues as conditional early release of certain prisoners.
“There are many milestones within our grasp,” he continued, emphasizing that 2020 would be an extremely important year for the Mechanism. Most of the judicial caseload should be completed by the end of the year, but other residual functions would continue as planned within a small and efficient structure. In order to reach that stage, further cooperation of Member States was needed in enforcement of sentences and arrest of fugitives who remain at large, he stated, adding that adequate financial support was critical, as well.
Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the Mechanism, also affirmed his commitment to meeting deadlines and presenting arguments in the Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović retrial and the Ratko Mladić appeal. At the Arusha branch, he described steps taken to protect witnesses and prosecute contempt of court, underscoring that contempt of court is a form of genocide denial that must be opposed for the sake of peace, reconciliation and the truth. Reviewing efforts to locate and arrest the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, he said that after his Office had submitted its report to the Council — and nearly one and a half years of inaction — South Africa said it had finally submitted the arrest warrant to the competent judicial authorities for execution.
He also expressed regret that in the former Yugoslavia, where thousands of cases remain before national courts, the denial of crimes and glorification of convicted war criminals is pervasive and getting worse, with some politicians believing they can win elections by denying atrocities and glorifying those responsible. In both Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, prosecutors, judges, civil society and others are continuing the fight to bring perpetrators to justice, establish the rule of law and promote reconciliation. “They need our help and support as much as ever before,” he said.
Most Council members, commending the Mechanism for its progress, welcomed its efforts to harmonize operations while emphasizing the need for efficiency.
Peru’s representative, noting his service as Chair of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals, underscored the importance of the Mechanism for strengthening international justice, combating impunity and promoting reconciliation through its adjudication of remaining cases. Therefore, it was critical to ensure the Council’s unity regarding such work as the Mechanism concluded its judicial tasks.
The representative of the Russian Federation, however, decried the continuing burden of tribunals set up a quarter‑century ago. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia embraced the worst features of politically driven justice, he stressed, adding that the Mechanism was driven by the same flaws. He called for the Mechanism to swiftly wind up all the cases before it.
Several speakers also urged cooperation with the Mechanism in finishing its work, particularly in regard the arrest and transfer of fugitives and enforcement of sentences.
Germany’s representative, emphasizing that his country would continue to offer full support for the Mechanism in its continuing work, stressed that the Council must lead by example and render all cooperation in the arrest of outstanding fugitives.
To that point, South Africa’s representative affirmed his country’s commitment to meeting its international obligations and announced that today the international arrest warrant for the fugitive said to be located in his country had been endorsed in accordance with South Africa’s domestic law, paving the way to give effect to the request for assistance.
However, Serbia’s representative expressed regret that, despite exemplary cooperation with the Mechanism and fulfilment of its obligations, his country continues to be looked at as a “bĕte noire”. Describing Serbia’s cooperation, he expressed concern over how questions of early release will be addressed, given that many sentenced persons are elderly and in poor health and, for reasons of humanity, should have their cases solved.
Croatia’s representative stressed that resolving outstanding cases from the former Yugoslavia is of utmost importance to the legacy of accountability for aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last decade of the twentieth century and underlined the need for Serbia to fully cooperate. He called on that country to stop glorifying war crimes as well.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s delegate, also describing his country’s cooperation with the Mechanism, said that the efficient, timely and successful conclusion of the Mechanism’s mandate is crucially important for justice and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the region. “More justice means more trust and stability,” he stressed.
Also speaking today were representatives of Poland, China, France, Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Belgium, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and the United States.
The meeting started at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 11:57 a.m.
CARMEL AGIUS, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said: “The principles, judges and staff of the Mechanism are aware of the weight of the responsibilities entrusted to us, and of the importance of succeeding in our mission.” All are working tirelessly to discharge their duties as effectively and efficiently as possible, he assured the Council as he presented the fifteenth progress report of the Mechanism. New developments in the last six months included the first evidentiary hearings at the Arusha branch, which affirmed the Appeals judgement against the defendant in the Ngirabatware case. He also described other actions on that case, as well as on the Turinabo et al case. Regarding judicial activity in The Hague, he reported that the current caseload remains on track, including work on the Stanišić and Simatović retrial and the Mladić case.
In addition to its legal work, the Mechanism has made great strides in harmonizing practices and procedures between its Arusha and Hague branches, one of the priorities of his presidency, he continued. The transfer of files to a common system — the Unified Judicial Database — should be concluded by the end of the year. All judicial records from the Tribunals and the Mechanism cases will be available through one database, not only to Mechanism staff but also to the general public. Describing other upgrades in procedures and staffing, he said that these improvements will continue, ensuring not only great consistency but also streamlined operations.
Looking to the next year, he said that 2020 is shaping up to be an extremely important year for the Mechanism and, therefore, also for the Security Council. “There are many milestones within our grasp,” he noted. Most of the judicial caseload should be completed by the end of the year with all existing cases concluded within the next 12 months, barring appeals or fugitive trials. This does not mean that the Mechanism will close once the cases are done, as it was created to perform other residual functions with a small and efficient structure. In regards to the forthcoming review next year, he stressed that the Mechanism takes such accountability processes extremely seriously and is willing to engage in frank discussions. However, such processes are time- and resource‑intensive and take away from ability to perform core functions.
He went on to say that he looked forward to the continued — and increased — cooperation of Member States in the enforcement of sentences, expressing gratitude to the 14 States that currently have 50 persons convicted by the tribunals or the Mechanism serving sentences. Efforts to improve the quality and transparency of the Mechanism’s approach to early release and related matters will also continue. Turning to the eight remaining fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, he again called for increased cooperation from Member States. “In this regard, the Mechanism trusts that South Africa, being one of the current Member States of the Council, will decide to honour its Chapter VII obligations, as well as the values that unite this Council, by securing the arrest of the fugitive that was located on its territory in 2018,” he said. Meaningful cooperation of Member States is needed regarding nine persons who were acquitted by the Rwanda Tribunal but remain in a Tanzanian safe house.
Requesting adequate financial support, he said that the Mechanism is prepared to do its work as efficiently and effectively as possible. However, that will require the necessary resources. He recalled why the Tribunals were established in the first place, following genocide in Rwanda and Srebrenica, which will be remembered vividly in 2020 when twenty‑fifth anniversary commemorations of the events in Srebrenica take place. “I trust that the prevailing scepticism regarding international criminal justice will be set aside so that the mandate of the Mechanism, as determined by this very Council, can continue to be fulfilled,” he said.
SERGE BRAMMERTZ, Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said events during the reporting period demonstrate that the Mechanism’s functions remain important and vital. In The Hague, his Office remains committed to meeting its court‑imposed deadlines and presenting its arguments in the Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović retrial and the Ratko Mladić appeal. At the Arusha branch, significant steps have been taken to protect witnesses and prosecute contempt of court cases. Recalling the case of Augustin Ngirabatware, a former Rwandan minister who sought to have his 2014 conviction on genocide charges overturned, he pointed out that contempt of court is a form of genocide denial that must be opposed for the sake of peace, reconciliation and the truth.
Reviewing his Office’s efforts to locate and arrest the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, he said it is still not getting the required cooperation from some Member States. “I deeply regret South Africa’s long‑standing failure to execute a Mechanism arrest warrant” involving one fugitive located in that country in 2018, he noted. Last week, after his Office’s written report was submitted to the Council, and after nearly one and a half years of inaction, South Africa said it had finally submitted the arrest warrant to the competent judicial authorities for execution.
Yet the fugitive is still at large, he continued, emphasizing that at this late stage, neither the victims nor the Council can be satisfied with anything less than immediate arrest. Regarding the other fugitives, his Office has credible information that some have been able to illegally and corruptly procure passports from various countries, enabling them to freely cross borders and evade arrest. National authorities have meanwhile failed to provide the Office with access to the persons and information it needs. The Council has repeatedly urged Member States to cooperate in the search for fugitives, but sadly, that message is not being heard by some. When a Council member fails for 16 months to arrest a fugitive wanted for genocide, “it sends the wrong signal”, he said.
Turning to national prosecutions of crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, he said it is clear that much more remains to be done to achieve more justice for more victims. His Office is still getting numerous requests for help from national authorities, clearly demonstrating that domestic investigations and prosecutions are under way. However, glorification of convicted war criminals, as well as denial of genocide and other crimes, remain a significant challenge to accountability and reconciliation. He underscored his Office’s commitment to support the Prosecutor‑General of Rwanda in his efforts to locate at least 500 additional fugitives suspected of having participated in genocide. Yet there are still concerted efforts to deny the Rwandan genocide, particularly among Rwandan diaspora communities, with some minimizing the scale of the genocide and others denying that crimes were intended to destroy the Tutsi community.
He also noted that in the former Yugoslavia, where thousands of cases remain before national courts, the denial of crimes and glorification of convicted war criminals is pervasive and getting worse, with some politicians believing they can win elections by denying atrocities and glorifying those responsible. In both Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, prosecutors, judges, civil society and others are continuing the fight to bring perpetrators to justice, establish the rule of law and promote reconciliation. “They need our help and support as much as ever before,” he said, asking the Council to send a clear message and tell all Member States that the search for fugitives remains vital to international peace and security.
NÉSTOR POPOLIZIO (Peru) underscored the importance of the Mechanism for strengthening international justice, combating impunity and promoting reconciliation through ensuring effective responses to victims’ needs. Welcoming the support being given to the Mechanism by African countries that are enforcing sentences, as well as the focus on harmonizing the work of the two branches, he also commended efforts to assist national courts and reach out to the public. These activities require adequate financing as well as all political support, he emphasized. Spotlighting his role as Chair of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals, he affirmed his support for the Mechanism and underlined the need to ensure the Council’s unity regarding its work as it concludes its judicial tasks and works to preserve its legacy.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), commending the Mechanism’s focus on the expeditious completion of judicial proceedings while maintaining fair trial standards, said that harmonizing practices between the two branches will optimize efficiency and foster staff morale. Welcoming President Agius’s direction to his staff to cooperate fully with the Office of the Internal Oversight Services evaluation, she also called on all States to fully cooperate with the Mechanism in the arrest and transfer of fugitives and enforcement of sentences. In addition, States should assist in finding a permanent solution to relocate the acquitted and released persons residing in Arusha. It is vital to support global criminal justice by approving the Mechanism’s budget, she emphasized. Doing so enables it to conclude most of the existing judicial work in 2020 and carry out its mandated remaining residual functions thereafter.
LIU YANG (China), taking note of the gradual progress of the Mechanism, expressed hope that further headway will be made based on agreed timelines. Acknowledging efforts to build efficiency and resolve all outstanding matters, he called for a prudent stance on early release of prisoners. He reiterated that, pursuant to the resolutions on the topic, the Mechanism is a temporary structure that will continue to diminish over time.
SHERAZ GASRI (France) assured the Mechanism of her full support and expressed hope that progress in cases in The Hague will be soon announced. She looked for progress in the cases in Arusha as well, she said, welcoming work towards a conditional early release Mechanism. Such efforts will have positive effects on international jurisprudence. Regretting that some States have not fully complied with efforts to render fugitives, she described her country’s cooperation with the Mechanism in relevant cases. The memory work of the Mechanism is particularly vital now in view of recent denials of crimes perpetrated in the former Yugoslavia. There is a need to conclude the judicial work of the Mechanism next year and harmonize all its procedures for its future work, she added.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) noted that 2020 will be key for the success of the Mechanism and its ability to meaningfully downsize. The Council’s assistance will be needed to secure adequate funding and necessary support to ensure progress is made towards the post‑2020 scenario. He also encouraged the Mechanism to continue to aid the national authorities of Rwanda and the States of the former Yugoslavia, including monitoring cases that have been referred to national courts. As well, he called on States, particularly those where fugitives are suspected to be at large, to intensify cooperation with and assistance to the Mechanism.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) expressed optimism that the Mechanism will complete its caseload by 2020. Noting that the Mechanism extends protection to 3,150 witnesses, he reiterated support to President Agius as he works to streamline the operations of the two Chambers. He also called for the international community to pool its efforts in the relocation of persons who have been acquitted and released. Such individuals have both the right to their documents upon release and the right to reintegrate into society in accordance with international law. There is no doubt that an adequate allocation of funds to the Mechanism is vital to its success, he said, urging Member States to cooperate in identifying and apprehending fugitives.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) said it is regrettable that only 45 per cent of the Mechanism’s staff are female, although a 2 per cent increase in the number of female professional staff is encouraging. Regarding fugitives, he echoed the Prosecutor’s regret involving one individual who, according to available information, appears to be in South Africa. He was happy to announce that today the international arrest warrant was endorsed in accordance with South Africa’s domestic law, paving the way to give effect to the request for assistance. South Africa takes its international obligations seriously and wishes to assure the Mechanism and the Council of its firm commitment to combating impunity and implementing the request for assistance, he said, adding that his country will continue to cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor to ensure that the fugitive is brought to justice.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) said the international community is continuing to haul the burden of a tribunal set up a quarter‑century ago. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia embraced the worst features of politically driven justice, he said, recalling the years when that Tribunal acted on the basis that all persons are presumed innocent “until determined to be Serbs”. The Mechanism is driven by the same flawed matrix, he said, pointing to the life sentence given to Radovan Karadžić after he appealed his conviction. Ratko Mladić must be provided with timely and appropriate medical attention, he stressed, adding that the Russian Federation stands ready to accommodate him for treatment. Looking ahead, he underscored the need for the Mechanism to wind up all the cases before it, including contempt of court cases, which seem to have multiplied.
KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium), affirming strong support for the Mechanism, said it is part of the arsenal of post‑conflict justice and the fight against impunity adopted by the Council. It is vital for all countries to cooperate with the Mechanism, she added, underlining their obligation to do so and calling on South Africa to render all assistance to the Mechanism. She also decried denial of crimes that had taken place in the former Yugoslavia. Perpetrators must not remain unpunished and hate speech must not be tolerated. Welcoming efforts to make the Mechanism more efficient and to consider conditions of early release, she called for adequate financial and political support. The Mechanism and other entities like it are crucial to ensure that new atrocities do not take place.
SUSAN JANE DICKSON (United Kingdom), noting the accomplishments and the remaining challenges of the Mechanism, acknowledged the work being done to harmonize data, as well as other progress in methods of work. The Mechanism will need the unified support of the international community, she emphasized, urging Member States to cooperate as a priority in apprehending outstanding fugitives. Denial of war crimes and their glorification must be stemmed by Member States who, she recalled, have all agreed on the importance of holding perpetrators accountable.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) welcomed progress in post‑conflict justice, in the interest of peace, as promulgated by the Tribunals and the Mechanism. He also welcomed the Mechanism’s goals of concluding its work. States should cooperate with enforcement of sentences, he said, noting his country held four persons convicted by the Tribunals. He also urged that accountability be ensured by stemming denial and glorification of war crimes. Members of the Council must lead by example and render all cooperation in the arrest of outstanding fugitives, he said, pledging his country’s full support for the Mechanism in its continuing work.
Ms. AL NASSER (Kuwait) commended the expeditious pace of the Mechanism’s work as well as the Prosecutor’s efforts to locate and arrest remaining fugitives. She called on relevant international organizations and Member States to help strengthen the Mechanism. It is facing many challenges and the international community must commit to providing it with full assistance.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire), reiterating his country’s full support for the Mechanism, said the challenges described by the Prosecutor — especially cooperation from Member States and judicial cooperation between States in the former Yugoslavia — are troubling. He appealed to all Member States to assist the Mechanism in locating, arresting and transferring fugitives. In particular, he welcomed efforts to identify and apprehend the eight remaining Rwandan fugitives and echoed the Council’s calls for Member States to abide by their international obligations.
AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) welcomed the innovative strategies outlined by the President to step up the efficiency of the Mechanism harmonization. She also noted the ongoing consultations with relevant stakeholders on the early release of individuals convicted by the Rwanda and former Yugoslavia tribunals, expressing hope that the work on those conditions would be successful, given the significance of such decisions for victims and survivors. As well, the eight remaining Rwandan refugees must be located and apprehended, despite the budgetary and other challenges faced by the Office of the Prosecutor. To a large extent, the Mechanism’s success hinges on the cooperation of States, especially in locating and apprehending fugitives and relocating those who have been released. They must step up their crucial assistance, she said, adding her hope that the Mechanism’s budget request will be adopted.
MICHAEL BARKIN (United States), Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, welcoming the President’s efforts to make the Mechanism more efficient and to harmonize the functions of its two branches. The conclusion of appellate procedures in the Mladić case will be a landmark in international criminal law, he said, recalling that individual’s actions as commander of the Bosnian Serb Army included the deaths of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica and the shelling of Sarajevo. He also added his support for the work being done in the retrials of Stanišić and Simatović, as well as efforts being made in the ongoing contempt of court proceedings. Attempts to interfere with witnesses or court procedures must be dealt with seriously. He noted Rwanda’s progress in trying genocide cases and urged Balkan States to improve cooperation across their national judicial systems. The United States continues to offer rewards of up to $5 million for the arrest of remaining fugitives, he pointed out, adding that it is essential that Member States meet the Mechanism’s request for cooperation with the swiftness and seriousness that victims and survivors deserve.
ČEDOMIR BACKOVIĆ (Serbia) said that, despite its exemplary cooperation with the Mechanism and fulfilment of its obligations, his country continues to be looked at as a “bĕte noire”. Prosecutors were given free access to all evidence, documents, archives and witnesses, who have been granted the right to waive the obligation to keep State, official and/or military secrets confidential. He also pointed out that Serbia has argued before the Council that the decades‑long practice of serving sentences pronounced by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Mechanism should be changed, including regarding early release in certain cases. However, in the wake of recent statements by the President and the Prosecutor, he expressed concern on how the question will be addressed, pointing out the sentenced persons are elderly and in poor health and, for reasons of humanity, should have their cases solved.
Noting a recent attempt to interrogate General Nebojša Paković in a Finnish prison, he said only the Mechanism has jurisdiction over the case. Citing Serbia’s call to have sentences on its nationals served in their home country, he spotlighted the difficult situation of Serbian nationals Milan Martić and Dragomir Milošević, serving Tribunal sentences in Estonia. He reiterated that Serbia is ready to accept international supervision of the enforcement of sentences that would be precisely defined, with guarantees the persons will not be released early unless under appropriate decisions by the Mechanism. He also expressed concern over the fate of Tribunal archives — which has not been addressed by officials of the Mechanism — and noted recent instances of legal cooperation with officials of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. As completion of the Mechanism’s work is in sight, the Council should remain actively seized with all outstanding issues.
ŽELJKO VUKOBRATOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) noted the Mechanism’s continued progress in fulfilling the residual activities of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. In this context, he pointed out that the efficient, timely and successful conclusion of the Mechanism’s mandate is crucially important for justice and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the region. Accountable, independent and impartial judicial institutions constitute a precondition for bringing perpetrators to justice and achieving reconciliation between Bosnians, Croats and Serbs and, as such, are essential for the country’s long‑term stability.
He highlighted the support of the European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and their efforts in strengthening the human and material resources of judicial institutions that are processing war crimes, along with general capacity‑building. He also recognized his country’s need for adopting a revised national war crimes strategy. Moreover, consistent cooperation among the Prosecutor’s Office and relevant authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia are crucial to investigating and prosecuting war crimes. His country, which is committed to investigate, prosecute and punish all persons responsible for war crimes, will continue to work on strengthening its national judicial system. “More justice means more trust and stability,” he stressed.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), spotlighting the appeal case against Ratko Mladić and trials against Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović, said that these cases are of utmost importance to the legacy of accountability for aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last decade of the twentieth century, especially as the case against former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević did not culminate in a verdict. Over a quarter‑century since the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was established, thousands of victims still await justice. He said he expects cases to be completed within the planned deadlines and underlined once again the need for Serbia to fully cooperate with the Mechanism.
Affirming commitment to effective judicial cooperation with other regional States in war crime matters, he recognized the increasing urgency to end impunity and overcome the legacy of the past, including justice for all victims of atrocities. However, as time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes. Meaningful cooperation is not a one‑way process. Other States must show willingness to actively improve relations, efforts Croatia continually makes towards Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Citing the 1991 siege of the city of Vukovar and the resulting massacre, he noted Serbia had unveiled a plaque commemorating the commander of forces engaged in that attack, an example of that State’s unwillingness to face its own past and its role in the war it initiated in the 1990s. He called on Serbia to stop glorifying war crimes and cooperate in addressing the issue of missing persons, part of the criteria it must meet under its European Union accession negotiations.
* The 8680th Meeting was closed.