Cooperation from States critical as UN tribunals enter final phase, say officials

Security Council session4 June 2009 – Cooperation from States remains critical as the United Nations tribunals set up to try those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide and atrocities committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s enter the final phases of their work, top officials from the courts told the Security Council today.

Speaking for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Prosecutor Serge Brammertz noted that 2009 is the last year of full trial activity before the court starts downsizing in 2010.

There were presently six cases on trial involving 19 accused, he reported. This included the prosecution of seven people charged with crimes committed in Srebrenica, which was now in its end stages, with final arguments scheduled for the end of August.

The completion strategy of the ICTY, which is based in The Hague, requires it to finish trials of first instance by 2009.

“The cooperation of States with my Office remains critical to the successful completion of our trials and appeals work,” the Prosecutor told the 15-member body, citing areas such as the provision of documents, access to archives, assurances that witnesses could testify and assistance in locating and arresting fugitives.

Mr. Brammertz said that Serbia, for example, has been notably more responsive to the Tribunal’s requests, including in granting access to national documents and archives.

However, “the search for and arrest of Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić remains the central issue in relation to Serbia’s cooperation,” he stated.

The President of the ICTY, Judge Patrick Robinson, also warned that if these two men remained fugitives by the time the Tribunal closed its doors, it would leave a stain on the Security Council’s historic contribution to peace-building in the former Yugoslavia.

Likewise, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) – which aims to finish first-instance trials by the end of 2009 – pressed for greater assistance from the Council in obtaining the cooperation of countries in the region to deliver fugitives to the court, based in Arusha, Tanzania.

Hassan Jallow pointed to Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where he said most of the dozen remaining fugitives are known to be residing.

He also outlined the Tribunal’s completion strategy with regards to its judicial work, saying that the transfer of outstanding cases to Rwandan jurisdictions was proceeding smoothly, with Rwanda abolishing the death penalty to comply with international standards.

ICTR President Dennis Byron added that 15 years after the genocide, 13 fugitives remained at large, four of them earmarked for trial as high-level accused.

“For an international community committed to the fight against impunity, letting those indicted for the most serious crimes escape trial is not an acceptable option,” he stressed. The cooperation and assistance of Member States was a cornerstone for successfully completing the Tribunal’s mandate in many aspects.

Source: UN News Centre