Remarks at a Meeting of the Sixth Committee on Agenda Item 130: UN General Assembly Briefing on the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals

Margarita Palau-Hernandez
Public Delegate
United States
New York City
October 17, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President.

With the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in December 2017, the United States thanks those who have served at the ICTY for their hard work in providing justice to the victims of atrocities and for their efforts in promoting international criminal accountability. Justice and accountability at the international and national levels remain critically important, particularly in the face of ongoing conflicts where grave crimes have been committed.

The United States commends the Mechanism for smoothly assuming the functions of the ICTY and the ICTR. During the reporting period, the Mechanism functioned without the support of either Tribunal for the first time and did so successfully and efficiently.

The United States recognizes President Meron for his continued leadership of the Mechanism. President Meron has faithfully served the Mechanism and, through his work, has helped ensure justice for victims of atrocities and due process for defendants.

During the reporting period, the Mechanism adopted amendments and polices to increase efficiency and clarity in regard to the procedures of the Mechanism. We are hopeful that the expenditure reduction plan implemented by the Mechanism will further increase its efficiency.

We recognize the efforts of Prosecutor Brammertz, particularly to collect new intelligence and leads on the eight fugitives indicted by the ICTR. Tracking activities have helped develop a clearer picture of the strategies used by the fugitives, and the United States remains hopeful that this will aid in the efforts to locate them.

The United States also commends the Prosecutor’s assistance to national jurisdictions in their own prosecution of atrocity crimes. In response to requests from Member States, the Office of the Prosecutor handed over more than 310,000 pages of documentation, which will constitute meaningful assistance for the national prosecution of atrocity crimes. The efforts to increase the capacity within national judiciaries, especially in East Africa and the former Yugoslavia, promote the justice and accountability the international community is committed to providing. Such efforts encourage sovereign national governments to take action and ensure legitimate and effective prosecution of international crimes and other atrocities.

The Mechanism has been, and should continue to be, supportive of appropriate prosecution by sovereign national governments. Attention to the Mechanism’s mandate as a temporary institution is of particular importance in understanding the need to support national systems for justice. The transfer of nine persons to enforcement states to serve their sentences shows the Mechanism’s commitment to its mandate.

This October marks the 20th anniversary of the first rewards, of up to $5 million, that the United States authorized for information leading to the arrest of individuals responsible for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. In the past 20 years we have paid dozens of rewards totaling millions of dollars to bring those responsible for crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda to justice. But this pursuit of justice is not over. Eight Rwandans remain at large, and the United States is more committed than ever to ensuring that they are brought to justice. We will continue to offer large rewards for information leading to the arrest of these men and urge all states to remain relentless in their efforts to find, arrest, and surrender these fugitives.

To the victims of these individuals – you are not forgotten.

To these fugitives and those who harbor them – we will not cease our search.

To governments – we emphasize that the adjudicated facts established through the proceedings of these tribunals represent an actual historical record of crimes committed during the conflicts, including genocide. They offer an opportunity for us to reach a shared understanding of what happened and prevent recurrence. None of us gains when individuals or governments seek to falsely revise facts, deny history, politicize tragedy, or portray convicted war criminals as heroes. We must work together to reverse this trend in a spirit of truth and reconciliation and ensure the crimes of perpetrators continue to be publicly rejected.

The United States would like to emphasize its gratitude for those who worked with the ICTR, the ICTY, and the Mechanism, along with those who continue to work with the Mechanism. These efforts show that justice can be achieved when the international community comes together. May those who lost their lives in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia continue to be remembered and the efforts to attain justice for them continue to remain strong. It is with great pride that we state our continued support of the Mechanism and our continued commitment to accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims of atrocities.

Thank you, Mr. President.