Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals One of United Nations’ ‘Best Investments’, Its President Tells Security Council, Highlighting Significant Progress
Briefing the Security Council today on the significant progress and tangible results in its core judicial cases, the President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals called for the international community’s continued support of its functions as it shifts from an operational to a residual court that safeguards the legacy of the Tribunals for war crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, as well as the Mechanism itself.
Graciela Gatti Santana, President of the Mechanism, reported that it remains strong, delivering tangible results. After the conclusion of the Fatuma et al. contempt case on 29 June, the Mechanism is left only with two main cases. The trial against Félicien Kabuga commenced in the Hague on 29 September and should be completed by September 2024. Equally, the Stanišić and Simatović appeal proceedings continue to be on track and the appeal judgment is expected to be delivered by June 2023, she said.
As well, the Mechanism will continue crafting options for any transfer of functions and will provide updates to guide its continuing transition to a truly residual court, she said, stressing: “The term ‘residual’ should not give impression that we no longer matter.” It will continue its work on the enforcement of sentences, preservation of archives, protection of witnesses, assistance to national jurisdictions and other judicial activities, even after the completion of its pending caseload.
She urged the international community to remain steadfast in its commitment to embrace the reality that justice does not end with final judgment. The Mechanism’s residual functions require continuous efforts to ensure that the legacy of both Tribunals and the Mechanism is not derailed. More importantly, she underscored: “The Mechanism is proud of its contribution and should be considered one of the best investments of the United Nations.”
Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said that in the search for the remaining four fugitives, the top priority is Fulgence Kayishema, who is indicted for the 1994 murders of more than 2,000 refugees. In that regard, cooperation with South Africa was now moving in a very positive direction. As there are still more than 1,000 fugitives wanted by Rwandan prosecutors for crimes committed during the 1994 genocide, he warned States that suspected génocidaires may be living in their territory.
Spotlighting thousands of cases yet to be completed in national courts, he said his Office’s assistance remains essential in completing this work. Its confidential evidence collection contains more than 11 million pages of testimony, reports and records. Voicing concern over the continuing denial of war crimes and glorification of convicted war criminals in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, he called on all officials and public figures in the region to act responsibly.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members commended the Mechanism’s progress in its trial and appeals proceedings, underscoring its critical role in achieving justice for victims of war crimes. Many speakers welcomed the Mechanism’s efforts to transition from an operational to a residual court and called on Member States’ cooperation to help further advance its work.
Gabon's representative, President of the Working Group on the International Residual Mechanism, noted that the Mechanism has now reached a crucial phase. Its credibility and effectiveness will continue to depend largely on the assistance that States provide to enable the arrest of fugitives, he said, encouraging concerned countries to cooperate closely with the Mechanism to maximize the collection of evidence essential to the opening of judicial investigations.
The representative of the United States, among others, called on Member States that may be harbouring any of the remaining fugitives from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to cooperate with the investigation. Noting the contempt case and lack of action with respect to defendants Jojić and Radeta, he urged Serbia to respond to the outstanding arrest warrants. National authorities must carry on with the important work of ensuring domestic prosecutions and promoting truth-telling and reconciliation and States must promptly and fully respond to all requests for cooperation, he said.
China’s representative, on that note, expressed hope that the Mechanism and parties concerned will strengthen communication, enhance mutual trust and accommodate respective legitimate concerns. With the reduction in number of cases and judicial functions, the Mechanism should reduce its expenditures and rationalize allocation of budgetary resources to focus on judicial activities, he said.
The representative of the Russian Federation, however, pointed out that the Mechanism continues to carry out functions that are not its own, trying to prolong its existence artificially. It would be useful to hear considerations on options for transferring the residual functions of the Mechanism after its termination, he said.
Serbia’s representative, addressing repeated assertions of Belgrade’s alleged non-cooperation with the Mechanism on the Jojić and Radeta case, said his country’s conduct represents its effort to act in accordance with resolution 1966 (2010). Addressing claims of denying war crimes and glorifying war criminals, he said Serbia has proven its commitment to justice and accountability. However, the legacy of the Tribunal and the Mechanism has been questionable, as evidenced by the Tribunal’s number of acquittals, insufficient cooperation with actors in the region and lack of readiness to investigate horrendous crimes against Serbs and try perpetrators.
Rwanda’s representative underscored that the expertise and knowledge of the Court should be utilized in capacity-training and knowledge-transfer to assist in hunting down the remaining fugitives. Despite having set up the Tribunals, the international community has, for a long time, been reluctant to bring genocide perpetrators to justice. Pointing to the lack of timely and effective cooperation by some Member States, he reported that Rwanda sent out over 1,000 indictments to 34 countries and urged their cooperation in arresting and prosecuting fugitives.
Croatia’s representative said the Stanišić and Simatović case should end with a judgement that clearly demonstrates the involvement of the top Serbian authorities in atrocity crimes. Serbia’s complete lack of political will to exchange information and enable archival access remains the greatest obstacle to resolving the fate and whereabouts of the remaining 1,821 missing persons. Finding their remains and determining the circumstances leading to their disappearance is not just a matter of human dignity but also an essential element for reconciliation, he emphasized.
The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina reported that prosecutors throughout his country are currently working on 465 war crimes cases that involve more than 4,000 suspects. However, his country’s judicial authorities are waiting for a significant number of responses from Croatian authorities regarding requests for mutual legal assistance, he said, appealing for the Croatian judicial authorities’ positive response. Properly acknowledging the truth of the past and condemning those responsible for such crimes “is key for our common future” and for forging relationships, he added.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Ghana, Ireland, Norway, Brazil, Albania, Kenya, France, Mexico, United Kingdom and India.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:08 p.m.
GRACIELA GATTI SANTANA, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, reported that the Mechanism remains strong, delivering tangible results in the fulfilment of its mandate. Noting the tireless efforts of judges and staff, she said the Mechanism, after the conclusion of the Fatuma et al. contempt case on 29 June, is left with only two main cases, both relating to war crimes.
Noting the trial against Félicien Kabuga, which commenced in the Hague on 29 September and is processing appeals, she said the innovative conduct of this case displays excellent interbranch coordination to move trial proceedings as expeditiously as possible with full respect for due process and fair trial rights for the accused. In addition to the Hague courtroom, witnesses and counsel can securely participate from the Arusha branch and Kigali field office, and the accused can attend the trial in person or remotely from the United Nations detention unit. The judges are supported by a dedicated team of lawyers working from across all duty stations. She has appointed a reserve judge to ensure continuity should one of the judges on the bench become unavailable. The projection for completion of the trial phase of this case remains by September 2024. Equally, the Stanišić and Simatović appeal proceedings, over which she has presided since July, continue to be on track, she said, adding that the next status conference will be held on 19 January 2023 with the in-person appeal hearing scheduled for 24 and 25 January 2023. With those key hearings in place, the appeal judgment is expected to be delivered by June 2023. In this case, all judges on the bench except her carry out the work remotely, she noted.
She went on to say that the Mechanism made important strides with respect to its other judicial activities arising from functions such as the protection of witnesses and victims, assistance to national jurisdiction and monitoring of cases referred to national courts, as well as the enforcement of sentences. Those matters regularly call for decisions by Mechanism judges or the President and require sustained efforts and resources to see the full cycle of justice through the end, she said, adding that the recent in-person plenary session of judges held from 28 to 30 November provided an apt forum to discuss those matters in greater depth.
Recalling Council resolution 2637 (2022), she said the review processes and evaluations present unique opportunities for the Mechanism’s improvement and self-calibration, and have helped define the priorities of her presidency. Underscoring the resolution’s strong call for all States’ full cooperation, she said respect for the proper administration of justice is sine qua non for the existence of the rule of law. “Interference cannot be tolerated. It threatens the bedrock of the international system of justice and the legacy of our court.” In the Jojić and Radeta case, Serbia has a unique obligation to cooperate with the Mechanism. Recently, the national authorities had informed her that they have no intention of complying with a single judge’s order from 13 May 2019, which the appeals chamber affirmed on 24 February 2020. She will continue to raise that matter with the expectation that Serbia will ultimately fulfil its international duties under the Charter of the United Nations as it has done in the past on a number of occasions relating to contempt of court.
Turning to the eight relocated persons who had been acquitted or had completed their sentences, she said the best way to resolve that situation is to observe the existing agreement between the United Nations and Niger. As this has not happened, those persons are living in de facto house arrest despite being free men. Recalling that Niger had previously agreed to relocate those persons on its territory, she said the collective inability to find a durable solution negatively affects the credibility of international justice. State assistance in identifying and implementing an acceptable solution to that crisis will go a long way to help the Mechanism move ahead with its transition plans.
Turning to the Council’s request for options regarding the transfer of the Mechanism’s remaining activities, she said she recently presented to the Council’s Informal Working Group on International Tribunals a road map which lays out remaining residual functions with preliminary projections involving three drawdown phases. The first is the period during which ad hoc judicial activity and tracking of fugitives are expected to be completed. The second phase is the period during which the Mechanism will focus on discharging its continued residual functions, which require more complex and long-term considerations. In the third phase, it is anticipated that its continuous residual function will have a greatly reduced workload for which specific projections are not available at this time. The Mechanism will continue crafting options for any transfer of functions and will provide updates on the development of a comprehensive strategy to guide its continuing transition to a truly residual court, she said.
Regarding the enforcement of sentences, she said that the Mechanism, compared with other international courts or tribunals, has the largest number of convicted persons: 51 in total serving the lengthiest sentences, including 17 life sentences. Currently, 13 States have assumed responsibility to enforce sentences, she said, appealing to other States to follow their lead. Unless additional States come forward, the Mechanism will struggle to fulfil its duty in that important area, she underscored.
The scope of the Mechanism’s responsibility and volume of its activities extends far beyond what was envisaged in 1993 and 1994 when ad hoc tribunals were established, she continued. “The term ‘residual’ should not give the impression that we no longer matter,” she emphasized, noting the Mechanism’s ongoing work with respect to the enforcement of sentences, preservation of archives, protection of witnesses, assistance to national jurisdictions and other judicial activities, even after the completion of its pending caseload.
“I urge the international community to remain steadfast in its commitment to fight impunity, embrace the reality that justice does not end with final judgment, and acknowledge that our residual functions require continuous efforts to ensure that the legacy of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Mechanism is not derailed,” she said. Underscoring the need for redoubled efforts to counter genocide denial, revisionism and the glorification of war criminals, she said: “By defending and disseminating the truth, we can help prevent genocide and other heinous crimes from occurring again,” adding that “the Mechanism is proud of its contribution and should be considered one of the best investments of the United Nations.”
SERGE BRAMMERTZ, Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, reported that the Mechanism currently has just two core cases remaining — namely, the trial of Félicien Kabuga and the appeal of Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović. Detailing recent procedural history in those cases, he also highlighted efforts to investigate and prosecute contempt-of-court crimes, which are essential to protecting witnesses and maintaining the integrity of the Mechanism’s proceedings. Turning to the search for remaining fugitives, he said that only four remain. Of those, the top priority is Fulgence Kayishema, who is indicted for the 1994 murders of more than 2,000 refugees. Recalling that this investigation has been significantly impeded since 2018 by challenges in obtaining South Africa’s cooperation, he said that such cooperation “is now moving in a very positive direction”. He went on to point out that there are still more than 1,000 fugitives wanted by Rwandan prosecutors for crimes committed during the 1994 genocide, stressing that States should be concerned that suspected génocidaires may be living in their territory.
Spotlighting thousands of cases yet to be completed in national courts, he said his Office’s assistance remains essential in completing this work. Its confidential evidence collection contains more than 11 million pages of testimony, reports and records; by providing access to this evidence, it directly supports justice for more victims. Noting increasing requests for assistance in this regard, he emphasized that national prosecutors face other critical challenges. In the former Yugoslavia, the most significant issue remains cooperation between prosecutors in the region. Such cooperation is essential because victims and perpetrators often live in different countries and, to achieve meaningful justice, cases must be transferred from the country investigating the crime to the one that can prosecute the subject. While there are important signs of positive progress in cooperation between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia, prosecutors in the region report that they are not receiving the cooperation they need from Croatia in cases involving Croatian suspects.
Noting that Croatian authorities informed him earlier in 2022 of their belief that investigation and prosecution of their nationals is a national security issue, he said this stance turns justice into a political matter. There have been further concerns raised about justice in Croatia, including many trials in absentia of Serbian nationals coupled with a failure to address notable crimes against Serbs. He recalled that prior to joining the European Union, Croatia was at the forefront of promoting justice and effective regional judicial cooperation. “Regrettably, it is no longer playing that role,” he said. He also expressed concern over the continuing denial of war crimes and glorification of convicted war criminals in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Providing several examples, he stressed that “these are not the words and acts of the margins, but of the political and cultural centres of the region’s societies”. He called on all officials and public figures in the region to act responsibly.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), President of the Working Group on the International Residual Mechanism, supported efforts made by the Mechanism and welcomed the strategy aimed at strengthening its efficiency and working methods. He encouraged the Mechanism President's office to use this strategy to engage the international community, primarily the Security Council, on complex issues, such as tracking fugitives, prosecuting highly sensitive cases, providing technical assistance to national jurisdictions, monitoring and enforcing sentences, protecting victims and witnesses, and safeguarding archives. The Mechanism has now reached a crucial phase, he said, and its credibility and effectiveness will continue to depend largely on the assistance that States will provide to enable the arrest of fugitives. The fight against impunity must remain a priority for the international community, he added, as he encouraged concerned States to cooperate closely with the Mechanism to maximize the collection of evidence essential to the opening of judicial investigations.
GENG SHUANG (China) noted that over the past two years, progress on Mechanism’s case trials has been slow due to the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic, expressing hope that the Mechanism will complete its work on the remaining two cases according to estimated timetables in the report. With the reduction in number of cases and judicial functions, the Mechanism should reduce its expenditures and rationalize allocation of budgetary resources to focus on judicial activities, he noted. Underscoring that practical and effective cooperation between the Mechanism and parties concerned is of great significance to the advancement of its work, he expressed hope that the Mechanism and parties concerned will strengthen communication, enhance mutual trust and accommodate respective legitimate concerns.
SUOOD RASHED ALI ALWALI ALMAZROUEI (United Arab Emirates)underscored the Mechanism’s critical role in achieving justice and protecting the rights of victims of war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Turning to trial proceedings in the Kabuga case — which may be the last trial on the Mechanism’s docket — he emphasized that responsibility for holding perpetrators accountable lies with States, underlining the important role of international bodies in achieving international justice. He stressed that the Mechanism should be more effective and reduce its workload, guided by the Council’s vision that it is a temporary structure carrying out work that will diminish over time. In this regard, he welcomed the transition of the Mechanism from a fully operational court to a truly residual institution. He expressed regret that the situation of the eight acquitted and released persons remains unresolved.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States), noting the Mechanism’s progress on active trials and appeals, voiced hope that a decision on the Stanišić and Simatović case will finally clarify the roles of those officials in Belgrade in crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. He commended the Mechanism’s efforts to move expeditiously on the trial of Felicien Kabuga, given his health and age and the decades that victims have waited for justice. Noting the last remaining fugitives from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, he called on Member States that may be harbouring any of those remaining fugitives to cooperate with the investigation. Noting the outstanding contempt case and lack of action with respect to defendants Jojić and Radeta, he urged Serbia to respond to the outstanding arrest warrants. Ensuring the integrity of court proceedings is essential to the administration of justice. Pointing to a “new era of accountability”, he said national authorities must carry on with the important work of ensuring domestic prosecutions and promoting truth-telling, reconciliation and healing, and urged States to promptly and fully respond to all requests for cooperation.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), underlining the Mechanism’s role in ending impunity for atrocity crimes, called on all States to cooperate with the same to enable justice to be completed. This includes both handing over fugitives pursuant to international obligations and enforcing sentences. He also highlighted the international community’s collective responsibility to remember survivors and families of the victims of these atrocities, stressing that the only way such individuals can find closure is for perpetrators to be brought to justice. Recalling resolution 2529 (2020) and the importance of expeditiously relocating persons who either have been acquitted or have completed their sentence, he called on States to cooperate and assist the Mechanism in this regard. The international community must pay attention to this issue, he urged, as a continued lack of liberty for these persons “is a stain on international justice”. He also called on the Council to discuss this matter. Welcoming the Office of the Prosecutor’s collaboration with national prosecutors, including through the provision of access to evidence, he said that this helps build national prosecutorial capacity.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) stated that the Mechanism continues to carry out functions that are not its own, trying to prolong its existence artificially. It would be useful to hear considerations on options for transferring the residual functions of the Mechanism after its termination. He expressed his concern about the health condition of Mr. Mladić and recalled that assessing, caring for and improving the physical and mental health of persons serving sentences is part of the mandate of penitentiary institutions. It has been pointed out that the early release tool is only used when the Mechanism needs to relieve itself of the responsibility for another seriously ill prisoner, he lamented, adding that the Mladić case provides the Mechanism with a good opportunity to show its humanity. Further, representatives of Serbian civil society sent an open letter in defence of the rights of Mr. Karadžić. The letter describes in detail the United Kingdom’s disregard for his legal rights, as he is serving a life sentence completely deprived of communication with his relatives and has no access to the materials on his own court case, he added.
SIOBHÁN MILEY (Ireland) commended the Mechanism for the progress achieved across its judicial functions and welcomed the focus on its long-term residual activities. However, she reiterated her deep concern at Serbia’s persistent failure to arrest and surrender Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta and regretted that the situation of the eight acquitted or released individuals relocated from Arusha to Niamey in December last year has yet to be resolved. The situation continues to have a serious detrimental impact on the rights of the relocated persons, who are living under de facto house arrest. She called on Niger and the States concerned to respect the decisions of the Tribunal and to abide by the terms of the Relocation Agreement. It is deeply worrying that genocide denial, historical revisionism and the glorification of convicted war criminals continue to gain momentum, she emphasized, reaffirming her commitment to achieving justice for all victims and survivors of atrocity crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
MEENA ASIYA SYED (Norway), commending the Mechanism’s activities, noted that the fourth review of its work was completed in June. Reiterating support of the priorities outlined, including to ensure an efficient, effective and fair conclusion of the two remaining main cases, she noted that the trial proceedings started this fall in the Kabuga case and the proceedings in the Stanišić and Simatović appeal case are continuing as scheduled. Recognizing the ongoing transition from an operational court to a truly residual institution, she noted that the planned downsizing of staff continues. She expressed regret over the lack of progress in the Jojić and Radeta case and urged Serbia to cooperate with the Mechanism. She also expressed regret that the problems the Mechanism continues to face in relocating the eight persons who have been acquitted or released and urged Niger to adhere to their agreement with the United Nations.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said the Mechanism still needs time to complete the important tasks it is responsible for in its mandate. Therefore, it is essential not to thwart it in its mission to bring justice to all the cases it has the competence to adjudicate and that it inherited from the former Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Noting its crucial role in assisting national jurisdictions, protecting victims and witnesses, tracking fugitives and managing archives, he said the Mechanism must envisage the path towards the conclusion of all its activities. He welcomed Judge Gatti’s strategy to guide the Mechanism’s ongoing efforts to devise a comprehensive transition from an operational court to a truly residual institution. Highlighting the progress achieved in the remaining core judicial cases, he called on the international community’s full cooperation with the Mechanism in the tracking of fugitives, the execution of outstanding arrest warrants and orders of surrender, and the relocation of acquitted or released persons.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) commended the progress achieved in the ongoing trial of Félicien Kabuga and the progress on the appeal proceedings on the Stanišić and Simatović case. Recognizing the importance of the effective cooperation in locating and arresting the four remaining fugitives, she urged all States to facilitate the completion of this task. She expressed appreciation of the Mechanism in assisting national war crime prosecutions in the Balkans and Rwanda and reiterated her support for the efforts in ending impunity for such crimes. Noting that the arrest warrants for Jojić and Radeta, charged with witness interference, must be executed promptly, she condemned in the strongest terms the glorification of war criminals, genocide deniers and historical revisionism of basic facts.
CATHERINE NYABOKE NYAKOE (Kenya) acknowledged the progress achieved by the Mechanism towards the completion of its judicial work and urged that it moves with speed in completing the remaining cases. Recognizing the responsibility for ensuring accountability for war crimes and genocide, she urged States to cooperate with the Mechanism in their bid to apprehend the remaining fugitives. She reiterated that more effort should be provided for preventive processes, while also investing in national reconciliation. In this regard, she encouraged international support, underlining that inclusive dialogue should be weaved into national processes. She further called on the United Nations and international partners to provide support to affected States to strengthen their national investigative, prosecutorial and judicial capabilities.
DIARRA DIME LABILLE (France), welcoming the important judicial work of the Mechanism, said the opening of the trial in the Kabuga case was an important moment for the victims and for national reconciliation in Rwanda, along with the judgment in the case of Fatuma et al. and the continuation of the proceedings in the Stanišić and Simatović case. There must be adequate financial resources and qualified staff, she said, urging all States to cooperate fully with the Mechanism. It is also essential that the last fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda be brought to justice. Since the creation of the Mechanism, France has provided significant support in several areas, including judicial cooperation, notably with the arrest of Félicien Kabuga, as well as the mobilization of French courts, particularly in the case of Laurent Bucyibaruta. Further, France concluded an agreement with the United Nations in 2000 on the enforcement of sentences handed down by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, she said.
NATALIA JIMÉNEZ ALEGRÍA (Mexico) welcomed the conclusion of the Fatuma case and underscored the beginning of proceedings in the Kabuga and the Stanišić and Simatović cases. Turning to the four fugitives at large, she recognized progress in locating one of them, emphasizing that the priority is to have the fugitives detained. In this regard, she highlighted the value of cooperation between the Office of the Prosecutor and the national authorities. On the cases of contempt, she expressed concern about the lack of compliance and arrest warrants. She condemned the dissemination of speech which denies the Commission of atrocities sanctioned by international law and glorifies war criminals and called upon the States involved to promote actions to counteract these messages and to strengthen the promotion of education to combat racism and discrimination.
CHANAKA LIAM WICKREMASINGHE (United Kingdom) commended the Mechanism’s progress on the Stanišić and Simatović case and Mr. Kabuga’s trial, as well as the Mechanism’s efforts to be agile. His delegation looks forward to collaborating closely with the Mechanism and Council members to ensure the Mechanism remains efficient, while securing its critical legacy, he said. Voicing concern about other cases, he said: “It is high time that Serbia arrest and transfer Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta to the Mechanism following years of requests, considerations and discussion.” Turning to the Mechanism’s assistance in the Western Balkans, he said the blocking of cooperation by some in the region represents a critical and growing risk to meaningful reconciliation and long-term stability, and has direct implications for achieving justice for victims. He called on all States to meet their obligation and increase their efforts to provide justice for those heinous crimes. He condemned the continuing glorification of war criminals and the denial of genocide, and called on all Member States to do the same. Addressing the Russian Federation’s concerns, he said Mr. Karadžić is not being mistreated in any way and Mr. Karadžić himself has raised no complaint.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India), Council President for December, spoke in her national capacity to reiterate the importance of the Mechanism implementing its mandate strictly in accordance with the principles of justice, impartiality and fairness. She also expressed hope that the Mechanism will soon complete the transition from an operational court to a truly residual institution. Acknowledging the Mechanism’s progress in its two remaining cases and other judicial matters, she called on the same to continue to make headway in its remaining residual functions. These include protecting victims and witnesses, tracking the remaining fugitives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, extending assistance to national jurisdictions and managing archives. She also emphasized the importance of cooperation between the Mechanism and concerned Member States to address legal and logistical challenges. She looked forward to an early resolution of the impasse concerning acquitted and released persons relocated to Niger, she added, underscoring that this humanitarian issue must be addressed with urgency and sensitivity.
BORIS HOLOVKA (Serbia) was pleased that the Mechanism is aware of the major issues of concern as set out in resolution 2637 (2022). He pointed out several issues such as the initiation of new cases before the Mechanism, supervision over the execution of sentences, provision of assistance to national jurisdictions and managing of the archives. He addressed repeated assertions of alleged non-cooperation by Belgrade with the Mechanism regarding the case of Jojić and Radeta. Serbia’s conduct does not represent a violation of its international obligations, but an effort to act in accordance with resolution 1966 (2010), he said. He expressed his readiness for the trial of the Šešelj case to be conducted in Serbia. Regarding the supervision over the execution of sentences, he repeated the request that the prison sentences handed by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the Mechanism be served in Serbia.
Further, he requested the President of the Mechanism to immediately notify Serbia of all requests for extradition. The country where the convicted person is serving a prison sentence and the Mechanism do not have jurisdiction to decide on the extradition of Serbian citizens to a third country. In response to claims of denying war crimes and glorifying war criminals, he said that Serbia has proven its commitment to justice and accountability, whereas the legacy of the Tribunal and the Mechanism has been questionable. This can be seen from the number of acquittals by the Tribunal, insufficient cooperation with actors in the region and an evident lack of readiness to investigate horrendous crimes against Serbs and try perpetrators.
ROBERT KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) commended cooperation between the Mechanism and his country, including efforts by the Prosecutor’s office in locating and arresting the remaining fugitives. He underscored that the expertise and knowledge of the Court should be utilized in capacity training and knowledge transfer to assist in hunting down the remaining fugitives. Despite having set up the international criminal tribunals, the international community for a long time has been reluctant to bring genocide perpetrators to justice. Recognizing the significance of the work of the Mechanism and the Prosecutor’s office, he urged the Council to provide them with all necessary support. While the Office of the Prosecutor has viable leads on the whereabouts of some of the remaining fugitives, a lack of timely and effective cooperation by some Member States remains a major challenge, he stressed. He reported that Rwanda sent out over 1,000 indictments to 34 countries around the world requesting their cooperation in arresting and prosecuting fugitives.
Failure by some Member States to cooperate with the Court is a failure of their international legal obligations, he emphasized, urging those States to cooperate with the Court and the Office of the Prosecutor to bring fugitives to account. He also underscored that victims continue to suffer from those who deny genocide and glorify war criminals, noting that the international community remains silent in this regard and encouraging States to pass laws prohibiting such denial. “Instead of the genocide of the twenty-first century serving as a stunning lesson to the world as one of the vilest chapters of contemporary history and working towards the prevention of reoccurrence, many prominent politicians and public figures are fanning the flames of nationalism and wilfully sowing the seeds of hate,” he lamented.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), reiterating his Government’s support for the Mechanism and compliance with its Council obligations, voiced his hope that the Appeals Chamber would convict Mr. Stanišić and Mr. Simatović. In light of the Milošević case which did not result in the world seeing a final verdict against him for the brutal crimes he committed and orchestrated, the Stanišić and Simatović case should end with a judgement that clearly demonstrates the involvement of the top Serbian authorities in atrocity crimes. On the importance of cooperation between Member States and the Mechanism, he spotlighted that body’s referral of Serbia to the Council for the ongoing failure to arrest Mr. Jojić and Ms. Radeta and transfer them to that body. Croatia is committed to constructive, transparent and non-politicized, evidence-based judicial cooperation with other neighbouring States, he reiterated before expressing his disappointment over the factual inaccuracies and contradictions contained in the Prosecutor’s report as well as the biased qualifications concerning his country’s bilateral cooperation with other mandated States.
Meaningful cooperation is not a one-way process, he stressed. Alongside transparency and openness, standards of good practice must be upheld if States are to engage constructively. To that end, Croatia is still waiting for Serbia’s response to its invitation to the fourth and final round of negotiations for a bilateral agreement on processing war crimes. That country, he pointed out, has instead started a politically motivated trial against Croatian citizens that does not comply with international legal standards. He then called for attention to the non-acceptance of facts established by the Tribunal, denials of the Mechanism’s work and attempts rewrite history. The glorification of war criminals, denial of committed crimes and the continuous and intentional non-cooperation on the remaining 1,821 missing persons are unacceptable. Serbia’s complete lack of political will to exchange information and enable archival access remains the greatest obstacle to resolving the fate and whereabouts of those persons. Finding their remains and determining the circumstances leading to their disappearance is not just a matter of human dignity and long overdue comfort to victim’s families but also an essential element for reconciliation, he emphasized. He went on to underscore the need to increase awareness of the legacy of former Tribunals and establish information and documentation centres with the Mechanism’s support.
SVEN ALKALAJ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), commending the Mechanism’s progress, underscored the importance of continuing its work until all unfinished cases are closed. He noted that for their part, the judicial authorities of his country are working to implement a revised strategy for processing war crimes cases, which will send a strong message that impunity will not — and must not — be allowed, regardless of the nationality or ethnic identity of victims or perpetrators. This is important for reconciliation and progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina and throughout the Western Balkans, he stressed. Detailing national prosecutorial efforts, he also said that prosecutors throughout his country are currently working on 465 war crimes cases that involve more than 4,000 suspects. He pointed out, however, that his country’s judicial authorities are waiting for a significant number of responses from Croatian authorities regarding requests for mutual legal assistance.
Appealing to Croatian judicial authorities to positively respond in this regard, he highlighted cooperation between national prosecutors in his country and those in Serbia and Montenegro. Sarajevo looks forward to the outcome of this cooperation in achieving justice. Bosnia and Herzegovina remains committed to investigating, prosecuting and punishing all persons responsible for war crimes, while national judicial institutions prioritize witness protection in their operations. He went on to say that his country is facing several obstacles in the process of reconciliation, including the glorification and denial of war crimes and their perpetrators. Properly acknowledging the truth of the past and condemning those responsible for such crimes “is key for our common future” and for forging relationships, he said, adding that doing so constitutes a necessary step on the path towards membership in the European Union.