Thank you, Mr. President.
Presidents Meron and Joensen, Prosecutors Brammertz and Jallow, thank you for your reports and, even more, for your dedication to global public service. The world community is indebted to each of you for the outstanding leadership you have provided in the area of international criminal justice.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Gert Rosenthal, Permanent Representative of Guatemala, for his service as Chair of the Council’s Informal Working Group on Tribunals. Ambassador Rosenthal and his talented team have ably guided the Informal Working Group over the past two years as it has confronted many important issues in the field of international justice and accountability. Through their work, they have made tangible contributions to the fight against impunity.
Mr. President, the United States has strongly supported the work of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda since their inception. As we all recall, these tribunals were established in response to the horrors committed in the Balkans and Rwanda in the early 1990s, when the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children led to a wave of international revulsion. The tribunals were founded on the firm conviction that those responsible for mass atrocities, no matter what their rank or official position, must be held accountable.
Once the ICTY and ICTR were up and running, they began delivering international justice on an unprecedented scale. Today the two courts have tried more than 200 defendants accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, including top political and military leaders. The tribunals have operated on the principles of fairness, impartiality, and independence and, in the process, have built up a robust body of international humanitarian law. While events in Syria, Sudan and elsewhere have shown that the commission of mass atrocities continues to embody an urgent and profound challenge to the global community, the ICTY and ICTR provide a warning to leaders around the world that there are consequences for the choices they make, the actions they take, and the orders they give.
With the historic work of the tribunals now nearing completion, the United States commends the efforts of the Presidents and Prosecutors of both tribunals to enact cost-saving managerial and administrative measures, and to transfer the remaining functions of the tribunals to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. At the same time, we recognize that the exact closure dates will depend on the completion of ongoing and soon-to-begin trials and appeals.
Turning specifically to the ICTY, we note with satisfaction that the tribunal continues to focus on the completion of all trials and appeals, rendering 13 trial, appellate and contempt judgments between August 2012 and July 2013, a larger number of judgments than in almost any previous reporting period. We are pleased that the Hague branch of the Mechanism began operating in July 2013. We particularly want to commend the work done by the ICTY to enhance the training of judges, prosecutors, and defense counsel in States in the former Yugoslavia. This investment in human and institutional capacity will pay long term dividends in peace and stability. We urge all governments in the region to continue working towards reconciliation, to avoid statements that inflame tensions, and to continue to bring war criminals to justice in local courts.
Regarding the ICTR, we are pleased that the tribunal has wrapped up its workload of trials and continues to complete appeals, hopefully by 2015. The Mechanism in Arusha opened in 2012 and is operating smoothly. The United States urges all UN members, especially those in the region, to cooperate with the tribunal in the apprehension of the nine remaining fugitives. These alleged mass murderers must be brought to trial. The United States continues to offer monetary rewards for information leading to their arrest, whether those individuals will be prosecuted in the mechanism or in Rwandan courts. We also call on regional governments to work with the tribunal on the relocation of several persons who have either been acquitted by the ICTR or served their sentences but whose return to Rwanda is problematic.
Looking back 20 years, it should be clear to all that these two tribunals have made enormous and historic contributions to international criminal law. Not only have they brought to justice perpetrators of some of the most heinous crimes known to humankind, they have also assembled records and archives that will be publicly accessible and that will protect the truth from those who might, in the future, attempt to deny or distort it. The tribunals have fostered respect for the rule of law, developed capacity at the national level, and enhanced reconciliation and peace. They have also shown that no one, no matter how powerful, is beyond or above the reach of law. These are achievements that have transformed international criminal justice in ways that will stand the tests of time and create a safer and more just world for generations to come.
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