International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals Standing on Its Own for First Time, President Tells Security Council

Rwanda, Other Delegations Take Issue with Work Methods, Lack of Consultation on Early Release of Convicted Persons

Despite unprecedented and unexpected challenges due to resource constraints, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals had begun to stand on its own for the first time since its founding, its President, Theodor Meron, told the Security Council today.

He said that over the last several months, the Mechanism had taken on the full ambit of residual functions entrusted to it, but without the support of its two predecessors, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Significantly, the Mechanism had moved forward in carrying out its mandate, despite the rapid implementation of expenditure reductions, the deployment of staff downsizing measures and the deterioration of staff morale, he said, emphasizing that the present reporting period had been an arduous one in many respects. However, the Mechanism had demonstrated resilience and creativity, addressing new operational risks with resourcefulness and ingenuity while continuing to seek novel ways to enhance implementation of its mandate.

Also briefing the Council was Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, who highlighted that a recent evaluation of the Mechanism by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had concluded that it operated with a small staff and tight resources, as mandated by the Council. The Mechanism had been effective in planning, restructuring and refining its operational methods, although further efforts were needed to assess the effects of its high workload and organizational downsizing on staff morale.

Turning to the search for missing persons in the former Yugoslavia, he said that over the last six months, many stakeholders had sought assistance from his office, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Presidents of Croatia and Serbia, and the authorities tasked with locating missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Urgent efforts were needed to strengthen the search for missing persons, he emphasized, noting that 10,000 families � from all sides in the various Western Balkan conflicts during the 1990s � still did not know the fate of their loved ones. Underscoring the need for political will to create suitable conditions for witnesses to come forward with information, he described the search for missing persons as a humanitarian imperative, adding: It is time for political authorities to be accountable for their commitments and to show the courage to put aside all other considerations.

Croatia’s representative said the issue of missing persons was high on the agenda of his country’s Government, saying it was taking steps to account for persons who had perished or remained missing in order to provide their family members with information about their fates. However, Croatia was concerned that Serbia’s lack of cooperation with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was now being carried over to the Mechanism, underlining the need for that country to accept and implement its rulings and decisions in full.

Nela Kuburovic, Serbia’s Minister for Justice, said her country’s Government continued to facilitate the Prosecutor’s access to all evidence, documents, archives and witnesses. He had requested 1,677 documents, and in response, Serbia had handed over hundreds of thousands of documents over a period of 20 years, but they had not been used in proceedings. Notwithstanding a promise to return unused documents, that has not happened, she noted.

Bosnia and Herzegovina remained committed to improving the efficiency of its domestic war crimes institutions, that country’s delegate said, calling attention to the national war crime strategy playing a crucial role in promoting reconciliation. The consistent cooperation among the Office of the Prosecutor and the relevant national authorities was crucial for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, he said, adding that his country remained committed to promoting stronger and more coordinated regional cooperation.

The Russian Federation’s representative, Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, saying that the memory of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had been tarnished by a selective approach to justice. The Mechanism had inherited the Tribunal’s flawed work methods, he said, citing the OIOS finding that it had perpetuated the latter’s personnel policy. Furthermore, friction between the leadership and staff had led to declining morale, a possibility about which the Russian Federation had warned two years ago, he recalled.

Rwanda’s delegate said the Mechanism was facing a credibility crisis with respect to the early release of convicted persons. Although Rwanda was not opposed to the principle of early release, it was extremely concerned by the lack of transparency and accountability in the process used by the Mechanism to consider and execute early releases, she emphasized. Those decisions had been made solely by the President of the Mechanism, whereas the Government of Rwanda and the associated victims and survivors had only learned about them through the media, she said, adding that, with one exception, the Government had been denied the opportunity to ask about the grounds on which requests for early release were lodged, considered and approved. A number of the convicts released before the end of their sentences had since regrouped and organized themselves into an association of genocide denialists, she said, adding: They are free to undertake such criminal activities without fear of consequences because they were released with no [conditions].

Other delegations echoed those concerns, including Ethiopia’s representative, who emphasized that consultation on early release between Rwanda and the Mechanism was vital, particularly in light of the potential impact of such decisions on the victims and the community at large. Equatorial Guinea’s representative noted that the early release of convicted persons implied that the seriousness of their crimes was being swept under the rug.

Meanwhile, the representative of the United States stressed that all States must make efforts to arrest the eight remaining fugitives indicted by the Rwanda Tribunal, reiterating his Government’s offer of $5 million for information leading to their arrest.

Also speaking today were representatives of Peru, United Kingdom, CAte d’Ivoire, France, China, Sweden, Kuwait, Netherlands, Poland, Bolivia and Kazakhstan.

The meeting began at 10:37 a.m. and ended at 1:02 p.m.

Briefings

THEODOR MERON, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said that since his last briefing to the Council in December, the Mechanism had undergone a number of key developments. For the first time since its founding, the Mechanism had begun to stand on its own, without the support of its two predecessor Tribunals, and had taken on the full ambit of their residual functions entrusted to it. The Mechanism had also assumed, for the first time, full responsibility for a broad array of administrative services essential to the conduct of its mandate. Significantly, the Mechanism has done all of this whilst facing unprecedented and unexpected challenges regarding resource constraints, and as a result, the rapid implementation of expenditure reductions, the deployment of staff downsizing measures, and the deterioration of staff morale, he said.

He emphasized that the present reporting period had been an arduous one in many respects, although the Mechanism had demonstrated resilience and creativity, addressing new operational risks with resourcefulness and ingenuity and continuing to seek novel ways to enhance the conduct of its mandate. Noting that the Mechanism had continued to make important strides in the conduct and completion of its judicial work, he said that an appeal hearing in the case of Vojislav Seselj had been conducted on 13 December 2017 and the judgement delivered on 11 April 2018. Furthermore, an appeal hearing in the case of Radovan Karadzic had been conducted on 23 and 24 April, ahead of projections made last November.

Important progress was being made on a number of other fronts as well, he said, calling attention to the issue of sentence enforcement. The Mechanism had transferred eight convicted persons from the United Nations Detention Facility in Arusha to enforcement States during the reporting period, and was continuing its efforts to address enforcement needs for the remaining convicted persons at both branches. Noteworthy milestones had also been reached during the current reporting period in the area of archives management, with the handover of the final � and substantial � portion of physical and digital records from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to the Mechanism and the relocation of the physical records of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda into the custom built archives facility at Arusha.

The Mechanism continued to carry out the other key residual functions entrusted to it, he said, from the provision of assistance in support of accountability efforts in national jurisdictions, to the ongoing monitoring of cases referred to national courts, to the delivery of essential witness protection services. If international justice and the fight to create a global culture of accountability are to succeed in the long run, it will only be possible if we remain open to such improvement, innovation and creative problem solving, he stressed. That would only be possible through continued efforts to work together, maintaining an unwavering focus on the core principles underlying not only the establishment of the Mechanism, but to the work of the United Nations, in general.

SERGE BRAMMERTZ, Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said The Hague branch had worked expeditiously to complete its last judicial activities, with only three cases remaining, while the Arusha branch had done its utmost to locate and arrest the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Both branches continued to provide full support to national authorities in relation to the prosecution of serious international crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

He said an evaluation of the Mechanism by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) had concluded that it had operated with a small staff and tight resources, as mandated by the Council. The Mechanism had also been effective in planning, restructuring and refining its operational methods. It would work to address the impact on staff morale caused by the high workload and organizational downsizing. With the appeal judgement in the Seselj case two months ago, and the scheduled completion of the Karadzic appeal before year end, there would be only two remaining cases. Completion of the Jovika Stanisic and Franko Simatovic trial and the Ratko Mladic appeal by 2020 would leave only appeal proceedings, if any, in Stanisic and Simatovic.

Accordingly, there would be greater focus in The Hague on remaining functions, he said, the most significant of which was responding to more requests for assistance from national jurisdictions in relation to evidence collection, as countries of the former Yugoslavia had established national war crimes strategies and had already requested such support. Sufficient staff and resources will be needed temporarily to address this workload, he said.

His Office also anticipated an increase in judicial activities at the Arusha branch, he said, due to an increase in review and related litigation initiated by the defence, greater efforts to locate and arrest the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the Rwanda Tribunal, and more requests for assistance related to its evidence collection. His Office was committed to managing all developments consistent with the Council’s mandate for a lean and cost-effective organization.

Turning to the search for missing persons in the former Yugoslavia, he said over the last six months, many stakeholders had sought his Office’s assistance, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Presidents of Croatia and Serbia, and missing persons authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Efforts were urgently needed to strengthen the search for missing persons, as 10,000 families � from all sides � still did not know the fate of their loved ones.

The ICRC had launched a five year strategy to support local mechanisms, he said, and his Office was committed to providing all possible assistance, as requested. However, Government commitments to support that work remained only on paper; financial support from national budgets was limited and insufficient. Underscoring the need for political will to create the conditions for witnesses to come forward with information, he called the search for missing persons a humanitarian imperative. It is time for political authorities to be accountable for their commitments and to show the courage to put aside all other considerations, he said.

Statements

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that the development and evolution of international criminal law was vital for ensuring justice and reconciliation and for deterring those who may contemplate atrocity crimes. He said the Security Council must maintain a united front in its support of the Mechanism, expressing support for the way in which the Mechanism had efficiently gone about its work. He commended the African and European countries that had shown willingness to take in convicted persons so that they could serve out their sentences and noted the concerns that had been expressed regarding the early release policy, particularly in cases where those convicted had failed to demonstrate even a shred of contrition for their crimes.

SUSAN JANE DICKSON (United Kingdom) highlighted that the Mechanism had entered an important phase of its mandate, and in that context, she urged the Security Council to continue to support the entity, particularly as its current caseload reflected the importance of its work. The Mechanism’s structure had enabled it to manage its caseload efficiently, including by allowing staff to work remotely. It was clear that the Prosecutor’s embrace of the one office policy had proven effective, although the international community’s support was still needed. In that context, she called on relevant States to support the Prosecutor in national prosecutions.

ALCIDE DJEDJE (CAte d’Ivoire) said that the Mechanism had accomplished considerable progress recently in implementing its mandate, as demonstrated in the recent OIOS report released in March 2018. He drew attention to the important recommendations contained in that report; including those addressing the Mechanism’s working methods. Further, his delegation supported the proposal to conduct a study on the morale of the Mechanism’s staff members. A number of major challenges remained, including with regard to cooperation between States and the Mechanism aimed at strengthening national judicial capacities. CAte d’Ivoire supported such activities which would enable the institutions of beneficiary States to take on board the Mechanism’s experiences and best practices in prosecuting those accused of atrocity crimes.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) welcomed that the Mechanism had adhered to trial schedule deadlines, underscoring the temporary nature of that body in dispatching all cases in line with those time frames, while also accounting for the diversity of legal systems. It was important for all Member States to assist the Mechanism, notably in the enforcement of sentences, recalling that they were obliged to cooperate in the tracing and arrest of the eight fugitives charged by the Rwanda Tribunal. She welcomed the OIOS evaluation report, submitted in line with the Council’s 19 March 2018 presidential statement, calling on the Mechanism to adapt to requirements for efficiency and welcoming its adoption of the code of conduct for judges. She also welcomed the Mechanism’s assistance to national jurisdictions, calling the feeble cooperation by Balkan States in the apprehension of intermediate level criminals troubling. The rulings on mass atrocity crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda had been reached on the basis of facts and wholly fair trials. They were thus binding.

LI YONGSHENG (China) said the Mechanism continued to make progress, notably with eight convicted persons transferred to Senegal and Benin for their sentences. He also welcomed progress by the Prosecutor in tracking fugitives of the Rwanda Tribunal, expressing hope that the Mechanism would efficiently push forward its case trials. He expected the Mechanism to implement the OIOS recommendations, stressing that China had consistently supported the rule of law and the work of the Mechanism in that context.

IRINA SCHOULGIN NYONI (Sweden) said that for the Mechanism to complete its functions and avoid any delays in the implementation of its mandate, it was essential that it have the required resources. It was also imperative to uphold the Mechanism’s independence and integrity. The Mechanism had made important headway in the last six months, she said, welcoming the fact that the Registry was now reviewing how policies on the support and protection of victims and witnesses could better reflect gender sensitive and gender appropriate approaches. All Member States must cooperate fully and provide full and unequivocal support for the work of the Mechanism in order for it to succeed in delivering on its mandate. In that regard, Sweden was one of the countries that had received convicted individuals for the enforcement of their sentences, she noted.

BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said peace meant justice to the victims of mass atrocity crimes, notably by prosecuting perpetrators, pursuant to international law. He welcomed efforts to improve the Mechanism’s functioning amid an increase in judicial activities. Recalling that the General Assembly had not approved the Mechanism’s proposed budget for 2018 2019, and that the revised budget had led to a decrease in staff, he said such changes had negatively impacted morale. He welcomed that proceedings had led to swift judgements against the accused, with the final judgements made ahead of schedule.

KAREL J. G. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) noted that the judicial workload of the Mechanism was larger than anticipated, although its working methods had enabled the judges to expeditiously render judgements on smaller legal proceedings. His delegation fully supported the Prosecutor’s efforts to expeditiously complete all trials and appeals, locate and arrest the eight remaining fugitives and assist national jurisdictions prosecuting international crimes. He noted the discussions taking place on the early release policy, drawing attention to the authority given to the President by the statute of the Mechanism. In that connection, he underlined that the international legal order and the rule of law required the international community to respect and implement the Mechanism’s judicial decisions in accordance with the statute.

AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) said her country was satisfied with the significant progress made in the implementation of the Mechanism’s mandate. On the issue of the early release of convicted persons, she expressed concern that the seriousness of the crimes committed was being swept under the carpet. She stressed the need to take into consideration those that had been victimized, underscoring that it was vital that the victims felt that justice had been imparted. The Security Council must show unity and uphold the rule of law as well as promote accountability and prevent impunity. Her delegation supported the recommendations of OIOS and called on all Member States to redouble efforts to cooperate and collaborate with the Mechanism.

PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland) expressed appreciation for the Mechanism’s expeditious completion of trials and appeals and welcomed the numerous innovative, flexible and cost effective practices and arrangements that had been adopted. Noting the challenges faced by the Mechanism, including regarding its budgetary situation, he said sustained cooperation and support from Member States was crucial. All States must fully cooperate with the Mechanism and render necessary assistance, particularly concerning the location and arrest of the remaining fugitives. The international criminal justice institutions, including the Mechanism, played a crucial role in upholding accountability and fighting impunity, both of which were key for the effective prevention of conflict.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDA�N (Bolivia) noted the progress made in the jurisdictional activities carried out by the Mechanism during the reporting period and highlighted the activities undertaken by the Office of Prosecutor to assist and cooperate with national jurisdictions. Holding of remote hearings was an innovative and efficient initiative, although efforts were needed to address potential risks regarding data security and confidentiality. His delegation was alarmed by the number of fugitives that had not yet been brought before the Mechanism for trial and noted the assessment carried out by OIOS, including the six recommendations contained within that body’s report.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) noted the efforts undertaken by the Mechanism, including the Office of the Prosecutor, to further enhance efficiency and streamline internal working methods and processes, despite its small staff and tight resources. The measures taken by the Prosecutor to assist and build capacity in national criminal justice sectors was commendable, although she noted with concern that eight indicted fugitives who were currently expected to be brought to trial in Rwanda remained at large. The issues related to the early release of convicted persons could not be overlooked, she stressed, emphasizing that consultations between the President of the Mechanism and Rwanda on early release was vital, particularly with regard to the potential impact of such actions on the victims and the community at large.

MARK A. SIMONOFF (United States) said the volume of the Mechanism’s work was impressive given its lean operations and he urged it to continue to implement the OIOS recommendations outlined in its March report, citing that body’s statement that the Mechanism had achieved much of what the Council had envisioned for it. Welcoming the revised code of conduct for judges to include a disciplinary mechanism, he said some individuals who had been released early had subsequently denied responsibility for their crimes, which undermined the fight against impunity. He encouraged the practice of consulting with concerned States about the early release regime, expressing concern over the breakdown in cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia in war crimes related activities. He called on all concerned Governments to investigate and prosecute such cases, cooperating with one another and the Mechanism to that end. He also expressed concern over Serbia’s failure to carry out three arrest warrants and encouraged it to fulfil its obligations in that regard. All States must make efforts arrest the eight remaining fugitives indicted by the Rwanda Tribunal, he said, reiterating his Government’s $5 million offer for information leading to their arrest.

DIDAR TEMENOV (Kazakhstan) welcomed the fact that despite a reduced budget, the Mechanism had established itself as a small, temporary and effective structure, with an expenditure reduction plan, rules of procedure and policies based on the best practices of both Tribunals. This will ensure the fulfilment of its mandate effectively, he said. Calling on States to cooperate fully with the Mechanism, he expressed hope that the eight fugitives would soon be arrested. He also welcomed the Mechanism’s integrated system for managing archives and records, voicing hope that they would not be affected by the reduced budget. He reaffirmed Kazakhstan’s commitment to strengthening the rule of law and promoting justice.

Mr. KUZMIN (Russian Federation), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity. He said that the memory of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had been tarnished by a selective approach to justice, citing numerous delays in criminal proceedings and violations of the rights of the accused to a fair trial. Recalling that the Mechanism’s two year mandate ended on 30 June, he said the Council must complete its review of its activities and reflect its findings in a resolution, while emphasizing that passing that resolution was a precondition for extending the Mechanism’s work for two more years. The Mechanism had inherited the flawed work methods of the former Yugoslavia Tribunal, he said, citing the OIOS finding that it had perpetuated the latter’s personnel policy. Furthermore, friction between the leadership and staff had led to declining morale, a possibility about which the Russian Federation had warned two years ago, he recalled.

Noting that the volume of judicial activity had taken the Mechanism by surprise, he expressed concern over the OIOS statement that some staff considered the Arusha branch a peripheral field office. The Russian Federation expected the move of the Prosecutor and others to Arusha to enable the leadership to focus on the Mechanism’s mandated activities. Cautioning the Mechanism against stepping outside its functions, he recalled that it had been established as a temporary structure under resolution 1966 (2010) with limited authority to complete trial proceedings. He pressed the Mechanism to complete its functions as soon as possible, stressing that drawing out trials under the pretext of funding cuts was unacceptable. It was not authorized to analyse the quality of national judicial systems and should not focus on seminars or training, especially for third countries. Underlining the importance of protecting the right of accused persons to timely medical assistance, he said that the mistake made by the former Yugoslavia Tribunal should not be repeated, as they had led to the deaths of several people in custody. The Council should press the Mechanism to wrap up its work, he reiterated, outlining the Russian Federation’s expectation regarding reliable projections and a clear adherence to judicial standards, including trial timelines.

NELA KUBUROVIC, Minister for Justice of Serbia, said her country had harmonized its legislation with relevant standards and continued to facilitate the Prosecutor’s access to all evidence, documents, archives and witnesses. All requests had been addressed and witnesses allowed to testify freely. Regarding the Stanisic and Simatovic case, the Prosecutor had requested 1,677 documents, and in response, Serbia had asked for the application of Trial Chamber protective measures, she said, adding that it had also granted approval for two members of the security services to testify. Recalling that Serbia had handed over hundreds of thousands of documents to the Prosecutor over 20 years, she said they had not been used in proceedings. Notwithstanding the promise to return unused documents, that has not happened, she noted.

She said that in its efforts to improve the judicial system, Serbia had followed guidelines defined by its National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes, adopted in February 2016, the implementation of which was monitored by an entity established in August 2017 and chaired by the Minister for Justice. Two reports had been adopted on 31 March 2018, with a third to be adopted in July. A Deputy Prosecutor had been appointed and two others would be elected within the month, she said. The Government had allocated funds for improving capacity and the Judicial Academy was preparing a curriculum to update the knowledge of prosecutors and judges on the investigation and trial of war crimes.

Reacting to comments by the Prosecutor welcoming the number of cases processed in Croatia, most of which had been tried in absentia, she asked whether her country’s Government should have recourse to the institution of trial in absentia in order to make the number of cases solved satisfactory. Responding to his comments that Serbia had not taken meaningful steps against high level suspects, she said many of them had been sentenced before the Tribunal and that its practice related to the acquittal of indictees had impacted her country’s prosecution criteria and standards. Serbia cannot process the war crimes committed against the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija because of Kosovo’s continued refusal to cooperate, she stressed.

Moreover, she continued, the inclusion of the amicus curiae prosecutor in the case of Petar Jojic was not clear and expressed concern over that prosecutor’s questioning of the competence of Serbian judicial institutions and the parliamentary immunity of both Jojic and Vjerica Radeta. Underlining that it was in Serbia’s interest to process that case, she said that she expected the Mechanism to shun the practice of procrastination and complete the remaining cases within a reasonable time frame. She pointed out that Serbia had recognized judgements rendered in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and had, in cooperation with Croatia, established two commissions charged, respectively, with exchanging lists of persons accused or sentenced for war crimes, and for preparing a bilateral treaty to address the processing of war crimes. She voiced concern over the health of some of the accused or convicted persons, calling attention to the inadequate medical care provided in certain cases.

MILOS VUKASINOVIC (Bosnia and Herzegovina) stressed that the efficient and successful conclusion of the Mechanism’s mandate within a reasonable period of time was of crucial importance for justice and reconciliation. Bosnia and Herzegovina remained committed to improving the efficiency of domestic institutions addressing war crimes, he said, calling attention to the national war crime strategy playing a crucial role in promoting reconciliation. The implementation of that strategy was a complex process involving many institutions at all levels of authority, he said, welcoming the support received from the European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in strengthening the human and material resources of judicial institutions in processing war crime cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He went on to state that the consistent cooperation among the prosecutor’s office and the relevant national authorities was crucial for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, underscoring that Bosnia and Herzegovina remained committed to promoting stronger and more coordinated regional cooperation. The fight against impunity in a complex, multinational State was a crucial precondition for achieving reconciliation and sustaining peace. In that regard, prosecuting war crimes, irrespective of the national or religious origin of the perpetrators and victims, was of crucial importance for the long term stability of the country and the region.

VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia) emphasized that, given the devastating events of the 1990s, Croatia had been a strong supporter of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and now fully supported the Mechanism and its continued efforts to bring the most prominent perpetrators of the horrible crimes committed to justice. Expressing concern that Serbia’s lack of cooperation with the Tribunal was now being carried over to the Mechanism, he underlined the need for that country to cooperate fully with the Mechanism, including by fully accepting and implementing all its rulings and decisions. Trust among States was dependent on the willingness and sincere commitment by States to prosecute war crimes, without any double standards or exemptions in relation to their nationals or members of certain national groups, he added.

He went on to state that Croatia was deeply concerned by the repeated denial of past wrongdoing throughout the region, stressing that the practice went hand in hand with glorifying war criminals and their crimes. Such revisionism had had devastating effects on the region’s stability, he said, warning that hate speech and outrageous statements could lead to catastrophic consequences, including the instigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The issue of missing persons was high on Croatia’s agenda, and in that context, his country was taking steps to account for persons who had perished or remained missing in order to provide their family members with any possible information about their fates.

VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda) said it was concerning that the legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the credibility of the Mechanism were seriously at stake. Recalling that a large number of masterminds, planners and perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda had been released since 2012, under circumstances that lacked transparency or consistency, she said it was worth noting that during that same time period, the Mechanism had been unable to apprehend and prosecute any of the remaining genocide fugitives due to lack of cooperation on the part of Member States.

In that context, the Mechanism was facing a credibility crisis in relation to the issue of early release, she continued. While Rwanda was not opposed to the principle of early release, it was extremely concerned by the lack of transparency and accountability in the process used by the Mechanism to consider and execute early releases, she emphasized. Those decisions had been made solely by the President of the Mechanism, whereas the Government of Rwanda and the associated victims and survivors had only learned about them through the media.

She went on to point out that, with the exception of one request made in April, the Government had been denied the opportunity to ask about the grounds on which requests for early release were being lodged, considered and approved. She said that a number of the convicts released before the end of their sentences had since regrouped and organized themselves into a genocide denial association. They are free to undertake such criminal activities without fear of consequences because they were released with no [conditions], she stressed.

Source: United Nations

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