Thank you, Mr. President.
Presidents Meron and Joensen, Prosecutors Brammertz and Jallow: thank you very much for your briefings today and for your service.
Mr. President, as President Obama has said, “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” A key element of this endeavor is our commitment to seek justice for the perpetrators of heinous crimes, regardless of where or when they were committed. The system of international tribunals, which now includes the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (the “MICT”) as its newest member, is a critical institution in this process.
Since your last reports, much progress has been made. The MICT has passed down its first decision, to transfer a case for trial in Rwanda, and opened its Arusha Branch on schedule on July 1, 2012. The Hague branch of the MICT is slated to open in July, 2013. As we commend the tribunals for their historic contribution to justice and accountability, including the apprehension of all ICTY fugitives, we also recognize the substantial work which remains at both Tribunals in concluding trials, downsizing staff, and transferring remaining functions to the MICT. The Tribunals still face significant challenges in completing their mandate and we recognize the need for flexibility in assigning cases and determining the appeal and trial schedules.
In light of these tasks, we appreciate the ongoing efforts by the Tribunals to improve efficiency, share resources, and economize on costs. Efficiencies instituted by the MICT, including having a single set of principals – President, Prosecutor, and Registrar – for both the Arusha Branch and the branch in The Hague, and having the MICT President preside over the MICT Appeals Chamber will ensure a more efficient use of resources. We also welcome other cost-saving measures, such as allowing judges to carry out their functions remotely where possible, and the common use of certain administrative support services and other “best practices.” We look forward to future measures that economize on costs while maintaining the highest standards of justice.
Turning to the ICTY, we note the recent judgments of the Appeals and Trial Chambers and fully support the Tribunal and respect its rulings. The pace of work at the ICTY remains high, with eighteen individuals on trial and 15 in appeal proceedings at the close of the reporting period. The last of the ICTY trials has begun – that of Goran Hadžić. We commend the ICTY for expediting trials, such that it anticipates concluding all but three trials during 2013. While the Tribunal has implemented several reforms to expedite trials and appeals, it was not able to implement a 2009 Security Council authorization to redeploy four trial judges to the Appeals Chamber, because they are still needed at trial. We look forward to the President’s proposals as to how this situation can be remedied. We recognize that staff retention will continue to be a problem as the Tribunal nears the end of its mandate, and we urge the General Assembly to reconsider proposals put forward earlier for a modest financial incentive to save funds through reduced staff turnover. We also support the Tribunal’s outreach program, given the continued need for reconciliation in the states of the former Yugoslavia.
As regards the ICTR, we commend the Tribunal on the completion of numerous cases in the previous reporting period, including the completion of work at the trial level in regards to 92 of the 93 accused. The Trial Chamber delivered two judgments, in the Nzabonimana and the Nizeyimana cases, with a third trial judgment expected in December; and the Appeals Chamber delivered four judgments in 2012. We welcome the Tribunal’s projection that it will conclude all cases at the trial level by the end of 2012.
We continue to urge all UN member states, particularly those in the Great Lakes region, to cooperate in the apprehension of the nine remaining fugitives from the ICTR. The United States continues to offer monetary rewards for information leading to the arrest or transfer of ICTR fugitives, whether those individuals will be prosecuted by the MICT or in Rwandan courts. Those who harbor fugitives obstruct justice and stand on the wrong side of history.
We also welcome Rwanda’s commitment to adjudicating fairly the cases transferred from the ICTR to Rwanda, and we commend the ICTR and the MICT in creating a robust monitoring mechanism for the transferred cases. We will be watching these cases to satisfy ourselves that the conditions for referral continue to be met ahead of the MICT’s transfer of six more cases to the courts of Rwanda as and when fugitives are apprehended. The ICTR and the Rwandan authorities have also shown close cooperation in holding skills-sharing workshops and capacity-building seminars which will ensure fair proceedings at the national level. Strengthening national legal and justice institutions is one of the most important and lasting legacies of international tribunals such as the ICTR.
The defendants convicted in tribunal proceedings have been found guilty of the most heinous crimes known to humanity. The legacy of the tribunals, however, does not only consist of bringing individual perpetrators to justice. Thanks to the dedication of the tribunals, these crimes have been etched in the ledger books of history, and the records and archives of these crimes will be accessible to future generations, providing a corrective against distortions of the historical narrative. The tribunals have fostered respect for the rule of law; developed capacity at the national level, and enhanced reconciliation and peace. These are long-term achievements which not only strengthen the societies affected by such heinous crimes, but help ensure that these crimes will not be repeated elsewhere. Our commitment to working with the international community on behalf of this collective moral responsibility is unwavering.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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