My name is Richard Visek. I am the Acting Legal Adviser of the U.S. Department of State. On behalf of the United States, I would like to thank our colleagues from Italy, Uruguay, and the Netherlands for hosting this important event to commemorate the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The Tribunal and all those who worked to make it a success should feel proud today. Its list of accomplishments is impressive. Since the Tribunal opened in 1993, it has indicted 161 senior leaders of regional governments, militaries, and paramilitaries for their roles in atrocities committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Every indictment, every trial, every sentence was another step in ensuring a measure of justice for the victims of those crimes.
I also want to emphasize that each of these cases focused on determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. Fairness and impartiality have been the bedrock of the ICTY. Its verdicts DO NOT imply that a community or country is collectively responsible for the crimes committed by an individual.
The United States has supported the Tribunal since its inception, and we are proud that the ICTY stands as a milestone in modern international justice as the first international tribunal since Nuremberg and Tokyo to investigate and prosecute allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The Tribunal established key precedents in international criminal and humanitarian law and guided the work of later tribunals created to investigate and prosecute atrocities in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and elsewhere. One of the Tribunal’s pioneering achievements is its prosecution of wartime sexual violence. More than one third of those convicted by ICTY have been found guilty of crimes involving sexual violence.
ICTY also played an important role as a recorder of history. Adjudicated facts established by ICTY proceedings serve as an important means of fighting against impunity and revisionism in the former Yugoslavia. I would also like to emphasize that, although the ICTY is closing, the pursuit of justice in the Balkans continues. The Tribunal has encouraged judiciaries in the former Yugoslavia to continue their work of trying those responsible for committing war crimes during the 1990s. We urge national authorities to cooperate with each other, and with the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals to resolve remaining cases in their jurisdictions.
With the ICTY, we showed the world that we aim to hold accountable those who commit atrocities. So today, let us not only commemorate the Tribunal, but join voices to warn perpetrators of the gravest crimes that we will hold them accountable for their actions.