Nearly a dozen years after its creation by the Security Council, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals is ready to transition from a fully operational court to a truly residual institution, its President said today as she briefed the General Assembly on its work over the past year.
Graciela Gatti Santana, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, told delegates that apart from one appeal, all International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia cases related to core crimes have been finalized. And apart from one trial, the Mechanism has disposed of all International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda proceedings earmarked to be heard. However, not all Mechanism functions will cease with the end of in-court proceedings. “Our residual functions will remain ongoing in areas such as protecting witnesses, monitoring cases referred to national jurisdictions, preserving the archives and assisting national jurisdictions,” she explained.
The Mechanism’s first-ever female President, Ms. Santana underscored her commitment to safeguarding the efficient and fair conclusion of the remaining trial and appeal proceedings and shifting the body to a residual institution. Consolidating the achievements of the ad hoc Tribunals and the Mechanism, while enhancing coordination and collaboration, are crucial, she said. All States must provide sustainable support in two main areas - cooperation and resources, she said, appealing to them to share the burden and consider enforcing the sentences of convicted persons. Currently, 46 persons are serving their sentences across 13 enforcement States.
Many delegates at today’s session praised the Mechanism’s crucial role in deepening jurisprudence, advancing the rule of law and ensuring individuals are held accountable for the most serious international crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Several looked forward to the conclusion of the final appeal of the Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović case. Speakers also supported the progress in the trial against Felicien Kabuga as an important step towards justice for victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, with Albania’s delegate saying: “It conveys a strong message of hope and rehabilitation for those who suffered grave violations of human rights in Rwanda”.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, affirmed the bloc’s unwavering support for the Mechanism as it ensures accountability and strengthens the system of international criminal justice. “Building a cohesive and inclusive society, based on justice and truth, is the best way to honour the victims of crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” she said. She remained concerned with the uncertain situation of the eight acquitted or released persons in Niger and encouraged the Mechanism and Member States to find a permanent solution for these individuals.
Recognizing the Mechanism’s efforts in finding a durable solution to those individuals in Niger, Australia’s representative, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, urged all States, especially those where fugitives are suspected of being at large, to strengthen cooperation with and provide necessary assistance to the Mechanism. “We must all continue to work in ensuring that justice can prevail for victims,” she said.
Echoing that view, Latvia’s delegate, also speaking for Estonia and Lithuania, said that in order to further strengthen international criminal justice mechanisms, a special tribunal should be created to prosecute the crime of aggression against Ukraine.
The representative of the Russian Federation, however, found fault in the Security Council’s experiment to create organs of international criminal justice, saying that system, which has been slow to conclude its work, seems to live by its own rules. He criticized the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal as a typical failed example of exercising international jurisdiction. For example, it did not investigate the bombardment of Serbia by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries in 1999.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, where the Mechanism started operating in 2012 in its capital city of Arusha, said international criminal justice cannot be fully attained without all stakeholders’ cooperation. He called on all Member States to invoke the provisions of Article 28(2) of the Rome Statute and deliver timely, effective assistance to track and arrest all remaining fugitives. He assured the Assembly that his Government will provide all necessary assistance to maintain the trial of Mr. Kabuga. He also recommended the United Nations establish a Mechanism Museum within the Arusha branch, which could be responsible for educational and historical research on the administration of international criminal justice.
The speaker for Rwanda said some Member States’ failure to cooperate with his Government and the Mechanism amounts to active support of fugitives of genocide to escape from justice. “Pronouncements of commitment to international law and justice is not enough unless matched by direct action,” he added, welcoming recent action by the United States to extradite Beatrice Munyenyezi. The wounds of the survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi will not be healed when Member States shelter remaining fugitives. Despite the 1,145 indictments sent by Rwanda to countries around the world, requesting their cooperation in arresting and prosecuting those individuals or transferring them to Rwanda to face justice, very few countries have responded.
Also speaking today were representatives of Brazil, United States, Zimbabwe, Uruguay, Japan, United Kingdom, Türkiye and France.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 20 October, to consider follow-up outcomes to several United Nations conferences and summits.