Remarks at a UN Security Council Debate on International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals

Mark Simonoff. Legal Adviser

New York, New York

June 12, 2023

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Madam President. President Gatti Santana and Prosecutor Brammertz, thank you very much for this briefing on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals’ ongoing work to advance accountability for atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Since the last briefing, the Mechanism has achieved a significant milestone with the capture and arrest of fugitive Fulgence Kayishema. We congratulate the Mechanism and the South African authorities for the arrest, and we are grateful for the indispensable role played by South Africa in the capture and arrest. Kayishema was indicted over twenty years ago, charged with genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity for his role in the cold-blooded murders of more than 2,000 Tutsi men, women, and children at the Nyange Parish Church.

His arrest cannot restore what was lost in April 1994 in Kivumu, but we hope that it will provide victims some comfort that the fight for justice for their loved ones will continue and the facts surrounding their death will be fully brought to light. We continue to offer a reward of up to $5 million for the three remaining Rwandan fugitives sought by the Mechanism. Let Kayishema’s arrest be a message to all those responsible for similar crimes that they cannot escape accountability.

We also acknowledge the significance of the Mechanism’s recent appeals judgment in the case of Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović. This long-awaited judgment, which confirmed their liability as participants in a joint criminal enterprise to forcibly remove civilians through the crimes of persecution, murder, deportation, and inhumane acts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, is the final case involving atrocity crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and closes an important chapter in the history of international criminal justice.

Just over thirty years ago, this Security Council adopted resolution 827 to establish the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The ICTY, the first international tribunal since Nuremberg and Tokyo to address atrocity crimes, demonstrated the international community’s enduring commitment to holding those most responsible for atrocity crimes accountable.

We are grateful for the decades of work by the judges, attorneys, and other court staff of the ICTY and the Mechanism, and their immense contributions to the rule of law and the fight against impunity in the former Yugoslavia.

There is only one other remaining case involving core crimes pending before the court, the case of Félicien Kabuga, accused of acting as the primary financier of the militia and political groups that perpetrated the genocide in Rwanda. We note the Trial Chamber’s decision last week finding Kabuga unfit for trial and deciding to adopt an alternative finding procedure.

Unfortunately, this year we mourn the loss of Judge Elizabeth Ibanda-Nahamya of Uganda, who served on the Kabuga Trial Chamber and worked on other matters of distinction at the Mechanism. Her contributions and service to the field of international criminal law were outstanding, and we appreciate and recognize her years of service.

As President Gatti Santana’s report notes, the Mechanism is now preparing to enter a new phase in its life cycle. We appreciate the efforts of the Mechanism to manage a smooth transition away from active case work to focus on residual court functions, and learn lessons from the tribunals of Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and Lebanon on how best to address important issues including supporting national jurisdictions and managing and preserving evidence.

The success of the Mechanism has always depended on the cooperation and support of all states. We are grateful to the thirteen countries which serve as enforcement states holding those who were convicted. They are a fundamental pillar to the successful operation of the Mechanism. We also continue to urge all parties to find a durable solution for the acquitted and released persons who have been relocated.

We are also pleased to note the Prosecutor’s report of increased cooperation between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia on war crimes cases, as well as the report that the Croatian Minister of Justice has been transferring requests for assistance to the appropriate judicial authorities for action. We hope that the region can continue to make progress on cooperation, as victims have waited too long for justice. In particular, we continue to urge Serbia to act on the outstanding arrest warrants for Jojić and Radeta.

Finally, we acknowledge and honor the courage and resilience of victims, survivors, and their loved ones who continue to fight for the official acknowledgment of the crimes that they have witnessed and experienced. We recognize the courage of the thousands of witnesses who participated in these and other trials and without whom justice could not be served. The United States will continue to press for justice, mutual trust, and reconciliation as the foundation for peace and stability. Thank you.

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