Press Releases

    GA/10402
    11 October 2005

    Failure to Bring Remaining Indictees to Justice Could Cast Dark Shadow over Historic Achievements of Yugoslav Tribunal, General Assembly Told

    Presidents of Yugoslav, Rwanda Tribunals also Report on Progress towards Completion Strategies, Transfer of Cases to National Courts

    NEW YORK, 10 October (UN Headquarters) -- A dark shadow would be cast over the historic accomplishments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia if the seven senior-level accused still at large were not brought to justice, Tribunal President Theodor Meron told the General Assembly this afternoon, during a joint review of the annual reports of the Yugoslav and Rwanda Tribunals. 

    Reporting for the last time in his capacity as Tribunal President -- he would be stepping down in November to continue as an Appeals Chamber Judge -- Mr. Meron said three of the leaders still to be brought to justice before The Hague-based court had been high-level perpetrators of atrocities that scarred the Balkans in the 1990s.  Failing to bring them to trial before the target completion date of 2008 would present a threat to the Tribunal's legacy and to international justice.

    He added that the Tribunal had laid down the legal and logistical groundwork for transferring prosecutions to national jurisdictions.  National capacities were improved through the training of judges and prosecutors.  In that regard, he lauded the establishment in March of a War Crimes Chamber in the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a historic accomplishment for the nation and for the international community.

    According to their completion strategies, the Hague-based Yugoslav Tribunal and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, are to complete investigations by the end of 2004, end trials by 2008, and close down before the end of 2010.

    The referral of cases to national jurisdiction was a main element of the Tribunal's completion strategy, the representative of Serbia and Montenegro noted, adding that his country was ready to conduct fair and impartial trials against war crimes perpetrators.  A case before the new Council for War Crimes had already been assessed by international observers to be in line with international standards.  In relation to apprehending the seven indictees sought by the Tribunal, his country had already put in place interim legislation to freeze the funds of suspects.

    The transfer of trials to national jurisdiction was also a concern of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said its President, Eric Møse, as he presented the activities undertaken to meet the completion target of trying 65 to 70 cases by 2010.  One country had agreed to prosecute a suspect and negotiations were under way for others to do the same.  Countries were being urged to promote the completion strategy by accepting the transfer of cases for trial.  He also expressed concern at the obstacles raised by the freeze placed on the Tribunal's ability to hire staff, and stressed that, in order to meet its completion targets, it must continue to receive the necessary resources.

    Maintaining that many of those still at large were being sheltered from international justice by Member States, Rwanda's representative called for the Tribunal's Prosecutor and the Security Council to enforce the court's statute and ensure that all States handed over fugitives.  The transfer of cases for trial was welcome in enabling the Tribunal to meet its target completion date.  All trials targeted for transfer should take place in Rwanda to promote national reconciliation and healing.  In that regard, it was imperative that Rwanda's capacity-building was strengthened. 

    Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Malaysia, Japan, Madagascar, Norway, United Republic of Tanzania and Croatia.

    The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 13 October, when the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) will be the subject of debate.

    Background

    The General Assembly met this afternoon to take up the reports of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. 

    Before the Assembly is a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the tenth annual report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (A/60/229-S/2005/534), which covers the Tribunal's activities from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005.  The Trial Chambers delivered three judgments in that time, in cases involving three accused.  That brought the total to 19 judgments involving 25 people since the start of the trials in January 1997, with the result of 22 convictions and three acquittals. 

    Combined with another 25 persons currently on trial and 16 detainees still waiting to be tried, the report continues, the composition of those brought to justice so far is one Prime Minister, 11 Government ministers, four Prefects, seven bourgmestres and other high-ranking personalities.  The Appeals Chamber, during the reporting period, delivered four judgments in respect of five persons, with 10 appeals, 28 interlocutory appeals and one application for review of judgment currently under consideration.  Also, five trials involving seven accused were completed in that time.

    According to the report, a revised completion strategy confirms the Tribunal is on course to complete trials involving 65 to 70 persons by 2008, depending on progress in trials, in securing the assistance and cooperation of States in apprehending indictees and suspects, and in accepting transfer of cases for further actions.  The strategy is premised on prosecution being focused on leaders and the most serious offenders, while the cases of lower-level participants are transferred to national jurisdictions.  As of 30 June, the files of 15 suspects had been transferred to Rwanda for that purpose.

    A hiring freeze that had been imposed due to lack of contributions to the Tribunals was lifted in January and allowed the recruitment of key personnel.  Also, a fourth courtroom was inaugurated in March, financed by voluntary contributions from Norway and the United Kingdom.  Four ad litem judges were appointed in September 2004, bringing the total of those judges to nine.  High-level contacts between the Tribunal and Rwanda have been maintained. 

    The Assembly also has before it the twelfth annual report of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, transmitted by the Secretary-General in another note (A/60/267-S/2005/532).  The report, covering activities from 1 August 2004 to 31 July 2005, outlines several initiatives that have been implemented to increase the efficiency and pace of the Tribunal's proceedings.  The three Trial Chambers ran six trials simultaneously throughout the year, and the Tribunal continues to focus on the most senior-level people who are accused of the most serious crimes.  Procedural rules have also been amended.  For example, oral arguments are now required instead of written briefs, and a pilot e-court system, with the potential for huge time savings, was implemented in February. 

    The Prosecutor submitted her final indictments in December 2004, according to the report.  During the reporting period, 24 people were accused, surrendered or arrested and transferred to The Hague.  Only 10 fugitives remain outstanding, but several of them are high-level ones.  Despite some improvement in cooperation with countries of the former Yugoslavia, the continued failure to arrest these fugitives creates a significant barrier to the completion of the Tribunal's mandate.  An enforcement agreement has been concluded with the United Kingdom, and negotiations with several other countries have reached an advanced stage. 

    The Tribunal's completion strategy to accomplish its mandate by 2010 faces numerous other challenges, including issues of human resources, scheduling and legacies, adds the report.  A shortfall in contributions late in 2003 and in 2004 caused a hiring freeze that resulted in considerable managerial challenges.  Because of the freeze, there was a significant increase in the vacancy rate throughout the Tribunal between 2 May 2004 and 1 January 2005.  Lifting the freeze is a key factor in the Tribunal's ability to continue operating at maximum capacity and efficiency.

    Statements

    ERIC MØSE, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), said the court's work was proceeding well, and, during the period under review, the Trial Chambers had rendered three further judgements, which brought the total number of persons convicted or acquitted by the Tribunal since 1997 to 25.  Another judgement was expected soon.  Five new trials had also commenced involving seven accused, he said, also announcing that two new trials had begun since the report had been submitted.  Therefore, 10 trials were in progress, involving some 26 additional accused.

    To date, he said, judgements had been rendered or trials were ongoing, in respect of a total of 52 alleged leaders in the events of 1994.  The Tribunal's Appeals Chamber had also been busy and had delivered four judgements during the review period, he noted, briefly describing three of those cases, including those of Emmanuel Ndindabahizi, a former Minister of Finance; Mikaeli Muhimana; and Vincent Rutaganira.  He went on to say that trials in progress of multi-accused were the Tribunal's main challenges, chiefly because of their volume, complexity and the time needed for completion.  Two new single-accused cases had also commenced.

    The Tribunal's work -- and workload -- confirmed its capacity to complete single-accused cases within a limited number of trial days.  It also illustrated the high level of judicial activity in Arusha, he said, adding that just this week, between 14 and 18 accused were being transported to and from the courtroom, depending on the daily schedule.  All courtrooms were being used to maximum capacity by the 18 judges.  Sixteen indictees were awaiting trial in the Tribunal's Detention Centre, and their cases would commence as soon as trial capacity allowed.

    He stressed that in order to ensure maximum judicial output, there was a need to strike a balance between the multi- and single-accused trials.  Limited courtroom space made that a difficult task and it required careful long-term planning.  Turning to the court's Security Council-mandated completion strategy, he estimated that the Tribunal would complete cases involving 65 to 70 persons by 2008.  On the basis of those projections, he confirmed that the Tribunal was on track to complete its trials by the Council's deadline.  He also said the Investigations Division had completed probes on new targets by the 2004 deadline. Since the submission of the Tribunal's report, Chambers had confirmed all eight indictments, which brought to 20 the total number of genocide indictees presently at large.

    The Tribunal's Prosecutor intended to transfer some of the indictees to national jurisdiction for trail, he said.  That Office had entered into negotiations with certain States to ensure the prosecution of some indictees, and one country had already agreed to prosecute a suspect, with efforts continuing to get other countries to follow suit.  He urged Member States to contribute to the implementation of the Tribunal's completion strategy by accepting the transfer of cases for trial.

    He also expressed concern at the obstacles raised by the freeze placed on the Tribunal's ability to hire staff, and stressed that, in order to meet its completion targets, it must continue to receive the necessary resources.  He added that the Tribunal took any allegations concerning intimidation of prosecution or defence witnesses very seriously, and those were thoroughly investigated. 

    THEODOR MERON, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said he was reporting for the last time as President, since he would be stepping down in mid-November to continue as an Appeals Chamber Judge.  The Tribunal had made noteworthy strides while facing difficulties, he said.  The Trial and Appeals Chambers had heard and disposed of a record number of cases and four cases had been referred to national jurisdictions.  In particular, rules had been amended to expedite procedures without sacrificing the due process rights of defendants. 

    He reported that three combined trials of the multiply accused were now in the pre-trial phase, practices had been revised to coordinate parts of the Tribunal to aim at prosecuting the most senior officials accused of the most serious crimes, and two judicial working groups had been established to examine how to speed up both trials and appeals.  Communication between the Tribunal and the Association of Defence Council had been improved and a pilot e-court system introduced.

    In addition to those reforms in the Tribunal, he continued, the rule of law had been strengthened in the countries of the former Yugoslavia to enable them to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes.  The State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, had opened its War Crimes Chamber in March.  That was a historic accomplishment for the people of that country and the international community as a whole, since it was a result of coordination between the Government, the country's High Representative, the Tribunal, donors and the international community.  Cases involving intermediate- and lower-ranking accused had already been referred to the Chamber and disposed by it.

    The Tribunal continued to lay legal and logistical groundwork in the transfer of prosecutions to national jurisdictions, he went on.  National capacity had been built through the training of judges and prosecutors in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to increase local professionalism for handling complex cases.  Key materials were translated into local languages and distributed, while close relationships were fostered with legal professionals, the non-governmental organization (NGO) community, local media and Governments.

    Also, he said, efforts had been made to persuade States to actively search for and arrest indicted individuals who remained at large.  While 24 accused were transferred or surrendered to The Hague, seven remained to be apprehended and they included the three most important indictees.  States must cooperate in bringing to justice the perpetrators of atrocities that scarred the Balkans in the 1990s.  A dark shadow would be cast over the Tribunal's historic accomplishments if the senior-level accused were not brought to justice.  That would present a threat to the Tribunal's legacy and to international justice.  Particularly in need of improvement was the cooperation of the Republika Srpska in providing information on two of the accused.

    Finally, he said, all States must pay their assessed contributions on time to avoid the factors affecting the Tribunal's capacity to carry out its work effectively, such as the hiring freeze that had been lifted in January.  The Tribunal was making a fundamental and lasting contribution by bringing justice to thousands in the region, but it was also establishing an essential historical record of the atrocities resulting from war.  By assigning personal criminal responsibility to those who abused their positions of leadership and power, it dispelled the view that certain nations or groups must forever bear the stain of leaders' misdeeds.  It was providing a model for criminal tribunals yet to come.  And, as had been pointed out, peace was far more cost-effective than war.

    GAVIN WATSON (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said he believed strongly in the principle of no impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.  Peace, justice and the rule of law were inextricably linked, and both the Rwanda and Yugoslav Tribunals had made important contributions toward reconciliation and peacebuilding in the countries they had served. 

    He expressed regret that the length of the report on the Yugoslav Tribunal had impeded a more timely distribution, and said he had had little time to study it.  The increased numbers of those awaiting trial in The Hague would impact the timely implementation of the completion strategy, but the Tribunal should make every effort to respect the deadlines set by the Security Council.  In return, the international community had a commitment to provide sufficient resources and cooperation.  It was crucial that States cooperate with requests for access to archives and documents, securing the appearance in court of prosecution witnesses and the arrest and transfer of indictees still at large.  The continuous full cooperation of Rwanda and its neighbours and the countries of the Western Balkans remained essential.

    He welcomed the efforts made by both Tribunals to transfer cases to domestic jurisdictions, and their activities in the area of national capacity-building.  He restated his appeal to the Tribunals to ensure that the national trials adhered to the necessary standards of fair trial, independence and full respect for human rights. 

    ROSLI MAT HASSAN (Malaysia) said that since their creation, the Rwanda and Yugoslav Tribunals had played a significant role in clearly demonstrating that genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law would not be tolerated.   The Tribunals existed to ensure that perpetrators of genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law would not escape with impunity.

    He said the Tribunals had contributed to the progressive and constructive developments of case law in the spheres of general international law and international humanitarian law, and had led to pioneering advocacy for victim-oriented restitutive justice in international criminal law.  His country was pleased that the Tribunals had appointed ad litem judges, allowing them to increase their judicial productivity and meet the demands of the rise in cases.  The Tribunals needed to be in a position to undertake their tasks efficiently so that detainees were spared from undue delay in the completion of their trials.

    He said Malaysia was concerned by the 10 indictees that remained at large, including major indicted war criminals Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić.  Continued freedom with impunity of such major characters would not only preclude the Yugoslav Tribunal from completing its work within the time frame but also undermine successful cooperation with national authorities.  The Tribunals' work had greatly contributed to the field of post-conflict justice and furthered international criminal jurisprudence on matters such as individual responsibility and the ability to exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed in internal conflicts.  The international community should give its full and sustained support for the Tribunals so they could carry out their mandates.

    KOJI HANEDA (Japan) said he strongly hoped that both Tribunals would continue their efforts to efficiently conduct their activities in order to complete all trials by the end of 2010.  The transfer of Radovan Stanković from the Yugoslav Tribunal to the War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina was a remarkable step toward the establishment of the rule of law in the region.  Hopefully, the judicial capacity of the States in the area would be strengthened and more mid- to low-level defendants transferred to domestic courts, while international standards of due process and defendants' rights were observed.

    Despite those achievements, the fact that those responsible for the most serious violations of international humanitarian law had not yet been arrested was cause for concern, he said.  The full commitment of neighbouring States was essential for arresting and extraditing them.  He requested that the Rwanda Tribunal continue working as effectively as possible in order to complete the first phase of trials by 2008.  The transfer of cases to domestic courts was proceeding satisfactorily, and further cooperation of neighbouring States was required. 

    Taking into account the intentions of both Tribunals to complete the first phase of trials by the end of 2008, further consideration must be given to future precise scheduling of appeal cases.  Better coordination would be required to avoid placing too heavy a burden on the Appeals Chambers of the Tribunals.  He called for the utmost cooperation and efforts on the part of the staff of both Tribunals, neighbouring States and the international community. 

    ZINA ANDRIANARIVELO-RAZAFY (Madagascar) said the Tribunals had been pioneering in their investigation and prosecution of those charged with committing atrocious crimes during the Balkan wars of the 1990's, as well as the 1994 Rwanda genocide.  The Tribunals had also paved the way for the elaboration of the Rome Statute and establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose ultimate aim was to eradicate impunity.

    On the Rwanda Tribunal, Madagascar appreciated the changes that had taken place that had led to the smoother operation of that Arusha-based court, particularly the recent building of a fourth Trial Chamber.  He hoped that the recent capacity-enhancing initiatives undertaken by both courts would enable them to achieve their Security Council-mandated completion dates.  While stressing that it was the Tribunals' duty to try those high-level persons alleged of committing war crimes, he noted that the courts' initiative to hand off alleged criminals of intermediate rank to domestic courts had been a great step forward.  He reminded the Assembly that both Tribunals needed the full cooperation of all Member States to ensure the early arrest and transfer of all accused that were still at large.

    JOHAN L. LØVALD (Norway) said the Tribunals' work had played a crucial role in advancing the cause of peace in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, but they also had a broader significance.  They represented effective mechanisms for enforcing international criminal law and would leave behind a legacy of international jurisprudence to guide other courts, including those at the national level and the International Criminal Court.  They would also help deter the worst crimes of international concern.

    He said the financial situation of the Tribunals remained worrying, and that it could threaten the implementation of the completion strategies.  For that reason, it was of utmost importance that all States honour their financial commitments and pay their assessed contributions on time.  It was important that the transfer of cases involving intermediate- and low-level offenders to national jurisdictions receive the full support and cooperation of the international community.  Norway had implemented legal procedures to enable full cooperation with the Tribunal and urged other States to do the same.

    He said the increasing number of persons awaiting trial in the Yugoslav court could severely impact the timely implementation of its completion strategy.  For that reason, Norway had contributed financially to establishing the new War Crimes Chamber of the States Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Intensified efforts were needed to arrest and transfer the highest-ranking indictees, or else the Tribunals' main mission would not be fulfilled.  All States must honour their obligation to respond to requests for full and effective assistance to the Tribunals.  That applied to witnesses, giving financial and material support, and providing practical assistance in the enforcement sentences. 

    TUVAKO NATHANIEL MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said the pursuit of justice in the wake of genocide and serious violations of human rights in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia was an undertaking by the two Tribunals that deserved the utmost collective support.  The pace of prosecutions for the Rwanda Tribunal was commendable, and that was dependent on the assistance and cooperation of States to assist with apprehending indictees remaining at large.  Apprehending and extraditing those under indictment needed greater attention not only in Rwanda, but also in the Great Lakes region, he said.  Nothing should be done that would subvert the 2008 completion target that the Tribunal had set for itself. 

    Noting that his country was particularly encouraged by the effort being undertaken by the Prosecutor to explore how some indictees might be transferred to Rwanda, he said that that was a reaffirmation of the strengthening of, and confidence in, the Rwandan judicial system.  It was also an important contribution to the mutual trust between the Government of Rwanda and the Tribunal.  The completion process of the Tribunal was premised on the prosecution of high-ranking officials and those that bore the greatest responsibility for crimes committed during the genocide.  Member States, therefore, should accept the transfer of the remaining lower-status cases to their respective national jurisdiction for prosecution.

    NEBOJŠA KALUDJEROVIĆ (Serbia and Montenegro) said his country had just singed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, which demonstrated its firm commitment to strengthening its society and its relations with its neighbours, for the ultimate goal of Euro-Atlantic integration.  His country cooperated with the Tribunal in every respect, including through regional cooperation and in pursuing the Tribunal's completion strategy.  All measures were taken to facilitate the voluntary surrender and arrest of remaining fugitives.  The regular exchange of visits at the top level between Belgrade and The Hague was another sign of intensified cooperation between his country and the Tribunal.

    Perhaps the most important form of two-way cooperation between the Tribunal and his country, he said, was the referral of cases, which was one of the main elements in the Tribunal's completion strategy.  The country was ready for cases to be referred to it.  It was able to conduct fair and impartial trials against war crimes perpetrators.  One important case before the new Council for War Crimes had been assessed by international observers to be in line with international standards.  Referral of other cases to the national judiciary would be a powerful confirmation of the great progress achieved over the past year.

    He said his country had done everything to strengthen regional cooperation, including among police and prosecutors' offices in the region.  The agreement allowing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) missions to monitor war crimes trials referred to national courts was welcome, as were all measures improving the capacity to prosecute war crimes.  He also supported the common position of the European Union's Council of Ministers on implementing the Tribunal mandate by measures aimed at freezing the funds of fugitives.  While the National Council for Cooperation with the Tribunal reviewed the possibility of working those measures into legislation, interim measures for freezing fugitives' funds and assets had already been put in place by the Belgrade District Court.

    MIRJANA MLADINEO (Croatia) said that one of the first benchmarks of the Yugoslav Tribunal's completion strategy -- the completion of investigations -- had been achieved last year.  Another vital objective was the handing off of lower-level cases to the national courts of the countries concerned.  Croatia was pleased to see that such an initiative had begun and was now reflected in the Tribunal's staffing and budget requirements.  She added that relevant work was under way in Croatia to enhance the capacity of judges and lawyers within the country to hear such cases, which would, among other things, strengthen the Tribunal and its legal systems.  Indeed, Croatia had designated four of its courts to hear war crimes, she added.

    She went on to say that, since this past April, Croatian authorities had been implementing an action plan on cooperation with the Yugoslav Tribunal, particularly regarding the issue of remaining fugitive Ante Gotovina.  Vigorous, persistent and comprehensive measures were under way to implement the commitments of the plan, the aim of which was to allow Croatian authorities to do their utmost to locate, apprehend and transfer that fugitive to the Tribunal.  She said that full cooperation with the Tribunal had also been evidenced by Croatia's timely response to requests for documents and witnesses.

    STANISLAS KAMANZI (Rwanda) said he remained hopeful the Rwanda Tribunal would deliver justice to those who bore the greatest responsibility for the 1994 genocide and pledged continued support for making the Tribunal's work run as smoothly as possible.  According to the report, the Tribunal expected to have completed trials involving 65 to 70 persons by 2008.  While that was a welcome assessment, it was regrettable in comparison with a few years ago, when as many as 300 suspects were targeted by the Tribunal.  Serious accusations remained against some of the suspects who were no longer considered targets for prosecution.  Many of those still at large were being sheltered from international justice by Member States.  He appealed to the Prosecutor and the Security Council to enforce the Tribunal's statute and ensure that all States hand over those fugitives.

    He said some of the Tribunal's impact on justice and reconciliation in Rwanda had been constrained because of the geographical distance between Arusha and Rwanda, as well as the management and ethical problems of the Tribunal in its earlier life.  For that reason, the decision to transfer at least 15 cases for trial in Rwanda was a welcome one.  All trials targeted for transfer should take place in Rwanda as a way to promote national reconciliation and healing.  The country renewed its commitment that the death penalty would not be exercised in any of those cases.

    With plans to transfer cases for national prosecution, it was imperative that the Tribunal strengthen Rwanda's capacity-building efforts.  The work of the Registry needed to be intensified, particularly through recruitment of Rwandan lawyers and mentoring and attachment programmes.  It was also critical that sentences be served inside Rwanda.  He appealed to the Registry to be more imaginative in implementing outreach programmes, with greater efforts made to reach rural communities, where the impact of the genocide was most devastating.  A greater effort should also be placed on working with local authorities.

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