Results

UN - United Nations

10/20/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/20/2021 16:55

Residual Mechanism Advancing Remaining Cases of Closed Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia despite Pandemic-Related Hurdles, President Tells General Assembly

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.

Opening Remarks

CARMEL AGIUS, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, presenting the Mechanism's ninth annual report, paid tribute to Judge Gustave Gberdao Kam of Burkina Faso, who died in February. Recalling the turmoil caused by the global health crisis, he commended the many advances made in the implementation of the Mechanism's unique mandate, including the fulfilment of important obligations to accused and convicted persons, victims and witnesses, and the international community. "Despite the many difficulties encountered during the reporting period, the Mechanism made remarkable headway towards the completion of its core judicial work," he said. "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". 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.

He recalled that the proceedings in the Stanišić and Simatović case have moved to the appeal stage, with five judges having been appointed. Furthermore, in the case of Félicien Kabuga, preparations for the pre-trial stage have progressed well, he noted, but pointed out that the health of the accused could affect the commencement of the trial. Progress in the contempt case involving Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta has not been as promising as in other cases before the Mechanism. He recalled reporting to the Security Council in May that Serbia had failed to meet its international obligations to arrest the accused and transfer them to the Mechanism. "This was the third time that Serbia's failure to comply with its obligations has been reported to the Council and follows over six years of inaction on Serbia's part," he said, calling on that country to comply with the decisions of the Mechanism and its international obligation.

Turning to the particular vulnerability of prison populations during the pandemic, he emphasized that he will continue to closely monitor the situation of convicts, including by requesting States to provide updated information. The Mechanism has been able to transfer two individuals to the countries where they will serve their sentences and is working tirelessly to identify the most suitable States to take over the enforcement of the sentences of two other convicts, currently held in The Hague.

Regarding the Mechanism's monitoring of cases referred to national authorities, he welcomed progress in this area, noting that two appeals judgments had been rendered in cases referred to Rwanda, including in the case against Jean Uwinkindi and the case against Bernard Munyagishari. Both judgements upheld the life sentences imposed at first instance. Mr. Uwinkindi filed a notice for review of the appeal judgement before the Supreme Court of Rwanda in January 2021, which is under consideration. Aside from this case, two other cases are currently being actively monitored by the Mechanism: the trial proceedings against Laurent Bucyibaruta in France, and the appeal proceedings in the case against Ladislas Ntaganzwa in Rwanda. 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.

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. The plenary was an opportunity to welcome Judge Fatimata Sanou Touré of Burkina Faso, appointed by the Secretary-General on 12 August 2021, he said. All three organs of the Mechanism continuously strive to further harmonize practices and streamline activities, in order to ensure the optimal use of limited financial and human resources, while continuing to deliver at the highest international standards. In that regard, he welcomed the recently launched Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) assessment of the Mechanism's implementation of recommendations from previous evaluations. Despite the pandemic, business continuity in fulfilling our mandate must be a top priority, he stated.

Statements

BEATRICE MAILLE (Canada), also speaking on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, paid tribute to Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam, who served the Residual Mechanism with distinction for nearly a decade, before his unexpected death in February 2021. Mr. Kam significantly contributed to international justice. She welcomed the appointment of Judge Fatimata Sanou Touré in August 2021, to serve the remainder of Mr. Kam's term. International criminal tribunals are a key component of the international community's collective response to mass atrocities and they contribute directly to ending impunity and holding perpetrators of serious international crimes accountable. It is a collective responsibility to support this important work to develop international criminal law and administer justice, in cases involving the most horrific crimes in recent world history.

The Residual Mechanism cannot fulfil its mandate without the support, proactive cooperation and commitment of Member States, she said. She stressed the importance of cooperation to ensure justice for all victims of criminal atrocities and welcomed Serbia's recent announcement of greater regional cooperation in the prosecution of war crimes. She also highlighted the importance of maintaining the integrity of proceedings, and ensuring witness interference or other contempt proceedings, are duly condemned. She urged Member States to work together to secure the arrest and surrender of the six fugitives, indicted by the Residual Mechanism, who remain at large.

SIMONA POPAN, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the landmark 8 June 2021 judgement by the Appeal Chamber convicting Mr. 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. This judgement and the judgments in June in the Stanišić and Simatović retrial case and the case of Nzabonimpa et al are important steps to ensure the accountability of those responsible for atrocity crimes committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Stressing that the Mechanism's mandate is contingent on States' cooperation, she deeply regretted some States' failure to do so. In that regard, she noted the Mechanism President's 11 May 2021 notice to the Council, concerning the Jojic and Radta cases, and called on all States to comply with their international obligations to prevent impunity from taking hold. Remaining fugitives indicted by the Mechanism must be brought to justice, she said, underscoring that the death of the alleged perpetrators of atrocity crimes is not considered justice to victims. The concerned States must provide substantial proof when reporting the deaths of alleged perpetrators.

She also encouraged the Prosecutor's Office to keep working with national judicial authorities prosecuting war crimes cases stemming from the conflicts in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Denial of genocide, glorification of war criminals and attempts to rewrite history or the Mechanism's work are not acceptable. Increasing awareness of the legacy of the former Tribunals and the Mechanism's ongoing work is essential. The European Union is working with the Mechanism to raise awareness among affected communities and younger generations in the region of the former Yugoslavia. Serving justice, promoting reconciliation and building a better society are the best ways to honour the victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, she said.

KENNEDY GODFREY GASTORN (United Republic of Tanzania) said that all Member States must help locate and arrest the remaining fugitives indicted by the former Rwanda Tribunal and transfer them to Arusha for trial. There is no reason not to transfer Félicien Kabuga to Arusha, given the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, non-stop flights and advanced medical services in the United Republic of Tanzania and the region. His presence in The Hague was supposed to be temporary, he said, adding that his immediate transfer would give witnesses and other stakeholders the opportunity to participate in his trial. He commended the Mechanism for its efforts to resettle individuals who were acquitted or released by the Rwanda Tribunal, adding however, than nine persons who are still in Arusha represent a heavy responsibility for the Mechanism and the host country. All Member States must step up their efforts to resolve that situation, which has been ongoing for 17 years. He went on to commend the Mechanism's ongoing creation of publicly accessible audio-visual recordings of the Tribunal's proceedings, adding that his delegation will, in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), examine in detail the Mechanism's proposed budget to ensure that the Arusha Branch can deliver on its mandate.

FRANCIS WINSTON CHANGARA (Zimbabwe) said he appreciated the report's acknowledgement of the Zimbabwean Government's cooperation, which has helped investigations move ahead. Zimbabawe's full cooperation is premised on its recognition that effective cooperation between States and the Residual Mechanism is critical to apprehend perpetrators of heinous crimes, fight impunity, and ensure justice and accountability. The 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. In 2019, the Prosecutor held meetings with the two Vice Presidents of Zimbabwe. They assured him the Government is committed to investigate, apprehend and transfer Mr. Mpiranya, or any other fugitives, to the Residual Mechanism, if they were found anywhere in Zimbabwe. The Prosecutor's Office visited Zimbabwe in July and September 2021 to carry out their investigation with the full support and cooperation of the Inter-Departmental Task Force.

VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda) welcomed the Court's continued focus on arresting the remaining fugitives indicted by the Rwanda Tribunal, the expeditious completion of trials and appeals and on assisting national jurisdictions prosecuting international crimes committed in Rwanda. The Mechanism's report shows that, while the Office of the Prosecutor has viable leads to arrest some of the remaining fugitives under its mandate, the major challenge continues to be the lack of timely and effective cooperation by some Member States. "Rwanda sent more than 1,000 indictments to countries around the world, requesting their cooperation in arresting and prosecuting indicted individuals or transferring them to Rwanda to face justice, but very few countries have responded to these indictments," she pointed out, adding: "Rwanda expects decisive action against States who fail to abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions on the arrest of internationally wanted genocide suspects."

On contempt of court and witness interference, she welcomed the conviction of Augustin Ngirabatware, Anselme Nzabonimpa, Jean de Dieu Ndagijimana and Marie Rose Fatuma. She took note of the issue of relocation of acquitted and released persons, as contained in the report. Her Government has consistently made clear to the Court that the nine Rwandans acquitted and released by the Court are free to return to Rwanda should they wish to do so, she said, citing Rwanda's success in unity and reconciliation, as well as the option of the nine acquitted Rwandans to seek asylum elsewhere. "What we find highly questionable is why these nine free persons, who are today free men, and have no ongoing proceedings with the Court, should continue to be the burden of the international community," she said. The continued lack of cooperation by some Member States to arrest, try or extradite fugitives is a key obstacle, as is genocidal denial, she observed, calling on the Assembly to denounce the latter as intolerable and unacceptable.

SIM FARAR (United States) said that the Mechanism is fulfilling the goals set out by the Security Council and that its accomplishments during the pandemic are commendable. The United States fully supports the Office of the Prosecutor's priorities and continues to offer a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of the remaining Rwandan fugitives. He called on those Member States which may be harbouring fugitives to cooperate with the Mechanism. He underscored Serbia's legal obligation to cooperate with the Mechanism and called on its Government to execute outstanding arrest warrants without delay. Going forward, false narratives must be confronted and the truth uncovered in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, he said, adding that the Mechanism is playing a critical role in facilitating the rule of law globally.

JONATHAN SAMUEL HOLLIS (United Kingdom) noted that the Mechanism is considering Félicien Kabuga's fitness to stand trial. He also called on the Government of Zimbabwe to work with the Mechanism as it investigates the whereabouts of Protais Mpiranya, who is believed to be in that country. "We are proud to be supporting the Mechanism by agreeing to have Radovan Karadžić serve his life sentence in a British jail," he said. The Mechanism's referral of Serbia to the Security Council for a third time, for the failure to arrest and transfer Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta, is serious, he continued, urging Belgrade to comply with the Mechanism's order. He called on all Member States to condemn genocide denial and the glorification of war criminals, adding that the United Kingdom will help the Mechanism wherever possible to fulfil its mandate as a small, temporary and effective organization.

SANDRA PEJIC-GLYMPH (Serbia) reiterated that Serbia's record of cooperation with the Mechanism is positive and demonstrates her country's commitment to comply with its international obligations. She referred to requests for extradition or new investigations against persons who have been convicted, either by the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal or by the Mechanism, which was not included in the Mechanism's report. In that regard, she urged the Mechanism not to allow a retrial for persons already convicted by the Former Yugoslavia Tribunal, particularly to make sure it is not done in the territory of Kosovo and Metohijja, as it is under interim United Nations administration.

Turning to the conditions of early release of convicted persons, she said the Mechanism's current practice is contrary to that employed by previous Presidents of the Mechanism and it contradicts the legal framework in force for two decades. The practice violates the principle that all convicts in the same or similar situations should be treated in the same way. "Therefore, we do not find any justification for changing these conditions by a current President," she said. Regarding the Jojic-Radeta contempt case, she pointed out that, in line with Security Council resolution 1966 (2010), the Mechanism's main objective is to expeditiously complete its operations, refer cases to national jurisdictions and limit the Mechanism's jurisdiction to its necessary functions. "The claim of the President of the Mechanism that, in the present circumstances only a trial before the Mechanism can 'improve justice in the region of former Yugoslavia' is groundless," she said, adding: "Serbia takes seriously its obligations regarding cooperation with the Mechanism" and is ready to take over the judicial proceedings in the case, and has provided the appropriate guarantees in this regard.

SERGEI A. LEONIDCHENKO (Russian Federation) said the report shows the Mechanism complimented itself for operating during the pandemic. Yet many other organizations also adapted to operate during this period. The Mechanism has not demonstrated any particular past successes on judicial planning, saving resources or drawing down its activities. It is now working at a snail's pace and invoking the difficult pandemic situation as a reason. The review of the Mechanism's work by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was disappointing, he said, expressing doubt about whether the coordinating mechanisms described in the report can make up for the lack of judicial planning. The former Yugoslavia Tribunal undermined trust in the entire criminal system and refused to recognize the war crimes carried out by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It issued extremely harsh punishment to the Serbs, while vindicating other participants in the conflict.

The Residual Mechanism has inherited all the flaws of previous mechanisms, he said. In certain cases, it has shown a one-sided anti-Serb bias. It has not endowed its decisions with influence or authority. The Russian Federation wants to ensure the Security Council does not experiment again with any other organization of criminal justice, he said, stressing that such organizations in no way contribute to long-term reconciliation. He hoped the Residual Mechanism was in the final phase of its activity and had a plan to complete its work, and that it would not grasp onto any other residual functions to prolong its existence.

PABLO ADRIÁN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico) called upon Member States to step up cooperation with the Mechanism to locate, arrest and hand over fugitives. It is a matter of concern that, in the Jojić case, there have been no apprehensions, to the detriment of the victims and national reconciliation. Reconstructing the social fabric is impossible so long as impunity prevails. In the twenty-first century, there is no place for divisive and hate-inducing speech, he said, emphasizing the need for reconciliation, based on justice and truth. He reaffirmed Mexico's support for the Mechanism, stating that the international community has a moral duty to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.

Action

The Assembly then took note of the Secretary-General's note (document A/76/248) containing the Mechanism's ninth annual report.