General Assembly: 20th plenary meeting, 76th session
International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals - Item 130 - A/76/248
The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, set up to continue the vital legal work of bringing to justice the perpetrators of atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, made significant progress over the past year, despite obstacles due to the global health crisis, its President said today as he briefed the General Assembly on developments during the residual courts’ fourth year of functioning. “Despite the many difficulties encountered during the reporting period, the Mechanism made remarkable headway towards the completion of its core judicial work,” said Carmel Agius, as he presented the Mechanism’s ninth annual progress report (document A/76/248), which outlines activities from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. “Without compromising the rights of the accused or the health and safety of participants in the proceedings, three landmark Judgements were pronounced in the first half of this year,” he said. Those included rulings in the Mladić case on 8 June and the retrial of Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović on 30 June, both at the Hague branch, and in the contempt case involving Anselme Nzabonimpa on 25 June, at the Arusha branch. In September, the Mechanism held its first-ever virtual plenary of judges, he said, calling it a logistical achievement, given that the 25 judges were in 21 different countries. Aware of the particular vulnerability of prison populations during the pandemic, he emphasized that he continues closely monitoring the situation of convicts, including by requesting States to provide updated information. Reporting on the Mechanism’s monitoring of cases referred to national authorities, he welcomed progress, noting that two appeals judgments had been rendered in cases referred to the Rwandan authorities. He said that he expects positive developments in the coming months on the long-standing issue of the relocation of the nine acquitted or released persons still in a safe house in Arusha. When Member States took the floor, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the landmark 8 June 2021 judgement by the Appeal Chamber convicting Ratko Mladic for genocide in Srebrenica, war crimes and crimes against humanity sends a strong message that perpetrators of such heinous crimes are ultimately held to account. Yet she deeply regretted some States’ failure to cooperate with the Mechanism, calling on all nations to comply with their international obligations to prevent impunity from taking hold. Echoing that concern, the representative of Rwanda said despite sending more than 1,000 indictments to countries around the world, very few Governments have responded to requests for cooperation in arresting and prosecuting indicted individuals or transferring them to Rwanda to face justice. “Rwanda expects decisive action against States who fail to abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions on the arrest of internationally wanted genocide suspects,” she said. The speaker for Zimbabwe appreciated the Mechanism’s acknowledgement in its annual report of his country’s cooperation, which has helped investigations move ahead. His Government has taken concrete steps to enable the investigation of the whereabouts of the fugitive Protais Mpiranya, by creating a well-resourced Inter-Departmental Task Force to help the Office of the Prosecutor’s Tracking Team, he stressed, affirming Zimbabwe’s commitment to investigate, apprehend and transfer Mr. Mpiranya, or any other fugitives, to the Mechanism. Serbia’s representative urged the Mechanism not to allow a retrial for persons already convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, particularly to ensure such trials are not carried out in the territory of Kosovo and Metohijja, which is under interim United Nations administration. She also took issue with the Mechanism’s current practice for the conditions of early release of convicted persons, saying it contradicts the legal framework in place for two decades and violates the principle that all convicts in the same or similar situations should be treated in the same way. The Russian Federation’s speaker said that the Mechanism has inherited all the flaws of previous criminal courts and in certain cases, it has shown a one-sided anti-Serb bias. The review of the Mechanism’s work by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was disappointing. The Mechanism has not demonstrated any past successes on judicial planning, saving resources, or drawing down its activities, and is now working at a snail’s pace, invoking the pandemic as a reason for the slowdown. The Security Council must not experiment again with any other organization of criminal justice, he said, expressing hope that the Mechanism was in the final phase of its activity. Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), United Republic of Tanzania, United States, United Kingdom and Mexico. The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 25 October, to consider a draft resolution on space as a driver of sustainable development.