Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly 67th Session on International Criminal Tribunals

Joan Prince, Senior Advisor
New York, NY
October 15, 2012


Dear Mr. President, first, let me thank President Meron of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), and President Joensen of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for briefing us today and for your continued service. We thank Judge Meron for his service both as President of the ICTY and the MICT. We are proud of the service of this jurist, whom we consider a giant in the field of international criminal justice. We welcome the strong and valuable leadership of both Presidents.

Since your last presentation to the Security Council, the MICT successfully began its functioning in July at its Arusha branch, and has already rendered its first decision: the transfer to the courts of Rwanda of the case of ICTR fugitive Phénéas Munyarugarama – a former military commander in the Rwandan army charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, and direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and multiple counts of crimes against humanity. We welcome Rwanda's willingness to fairly adjudicate transferred cases and commend the ICTR for arranging for the monitoring of trials in Rwanda. A strengthened national legal and justice sector will promote long-term rule of law and stability in the region. We call on all states, particularly those in the Great Lakes region, to help apprehend the remaining fugitives and bring them to justice, whether in the ICTR, the MICT, or the courts of Rwanda. Those who harbor fugitives put themselves in peril and are only delaying the inevitable. We urge all UN member states to continue to search for them and to cooperate in these efforts.

The United States again commends the tribunal Presidents for their efforts to enact cost-saving managerial and administrative measures in the ICTR, ICTY, and MICT, and their efforts in transferring remaining functions of the Tribunals to the MICT. Their efforts are especially important, given the unpredictability of the trial process, which can affect the length and expense of trials and appeals, and again underline the need of the Security Council to remain flexible in this regard.

Turning to the ICTY, we note that the trial of Goran Hadžić began last week. Hadžić was the last ICTY indictee apprehended, and his is the final trial to begin. Now, all of the ICTY indictees are – or have been – on trial. We look forward to the ICTY Prosecutor’s report at the end of the year, so we may learn more about Serbia’s efforts to bring to justice those who hid Mladić and Hadžić and other ICTY fugitives, and who frustrated attempts to bring them to justice for so many years. The governments in the region must work more assiduously toward reconciliation, avoiding actions and statements that are meant to inflame tensions rather than to assuage them. Their records of cooperation with the ICTY and each other, as well as their progress on domestic justice and accountability initiatives, will be critical in that regard.

We also note that it has been almost twenty years since the Security Council established the ICTY, and later, the ICTR. Since then, these tribunals have articulated a robust body of international humanitarian law, and they represent a strong legacy in the international fight against impunity for those who commit atrocities. The defendants convicted in tribunal proceedings to date have been tried and found guilty of some the most heinous crimes known to mankind. Thanks to the hard work of the tribunals, and to the international community for funding them, the world knows about these crimes, and perpetrators are being held accountable for their actions. In addition, there are now archives and public records which will be accessible to generations to come, bringing to light stories that would otherwise be lost or hidden in the shadows. This information is critical to combating the concerted efforts of those who seek to promote an alternative historical narrative at variance with judicially established fact. In addition to combating impunity, the tribunals' contributions in the areas of local capacity-building and education will help foster long-term peace and reconciliation. The international community must continue to fund these archives and these efforts to promote reconciliation.

Mr. President, the United States remains committed to working with the international community to help protect populations from atrocities. We continue to take action to address ongoing atrocity situations and urge others to do so as well. We must also improve our national tools and collective efforts on prevention, response, and accountability – with a focus on concrete results.

Thank you, Mr. President.


PRN: 2012/221