Remarks at a UN General Assembly Meeting on Agenda Item 75: Report of the International Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia since 1991 and Agenda Item 129:

Remarks at a UN General Assembly Meeting on Agenda Item 75: Report of the International Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia since 1991 and Agenda Item 129: International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals


Carlos Trujillo
Special Advisor
United States
New York City
October 18, 2017


Thank you, Mr. President.

As we look to the near horizon in December and see the coming closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the United States again extends its sincere appreciation to President Meron, President Agius, and Prosecutor Brammertz for their ongoing work to achieve justice for victims of the vicious atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia.

It is especially important to be here today participating in this debate, as we continue to face conflicts where serious crimes have been committed. We must continue to find ways to support accountability for perpetrators of atrocities, and justice for the victims.

As we look to the closure of the ICTY in December, we remain as committed as ever to the Tribunal, the independence of its work, and the successful transfer of functions to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. The United States wishes to underscore that while the ICTY is successfully concluding its mandate, there remains much to do in the pursuit of justice and reconciliation. We must now turn our focus on fulfilling national-level obligations to resolve remaining war crimes cases, and we remain willing to support these efforts.

We applaud the ICTY for maintaining its completion schedule, on track to deliver judgements by the end of November in its two remaining substantive cases. With respect to the upcoming appeal judgment in the Prlić case against six former high-ranking officials from Herceg-Bosna, we support the independence of the Tribunal to reach its decision.

For the case against Ratko Mladić, charged with 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws and customs of war, we see it as a fitting bookend to the work of the Tribunal, and yet another example for the world to see that eventually those alleged to be responsible for atrocities will face justice.

Both of these cases, like all others, involve questions of individual criminality, and should not be seen as trials of any one country.

The United States also commends the work, under the leadership of the President of the ICTY, to hold legacy and closing events that can help ensure a long-lasting impact, particularly in ongoing efforts at justice and reconciliation.

The United States remains concerned about the divisive nature of some statements by some individuals in the region, which negatively impacts cooperation in the pursuit of justice for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. This is particularly true when individuals deny or seek to revise the true record of crimes established by the ICTY. We should strive to depoliticize the historical record, which can help prevent a repetition of such widespread atrocities and create the space for technical experts to meet, share information, and work together in various fora to resolve remaining cases.

The United States also remains concerned about the government of Serbia’s failure to execute the arrest warrants for the two surviving individuals charged with contempt of court in relation to witness intimidation in the case of Vojislav Šešelj. We continue to encourage Serbia to fulfill its obligations.

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals has also made notable progress since we last convened here. From an administrative perspective, staff moved into new premises in Arusha, Tanzania. Substantively, we recognize the continued focus on the expeditious completion of trials and appeals.

The United States applauds the MICT’s efforts to assist national jurisdictions, such as by processing requests to question detained persons and protected witnesses. We understand that during the reporting period, the Office of the Prosecutor also answered 11 requests from member states and one international organization regarding Rwanda, and 239 requests for assistance from eight Member States and three international organizations in regards to the former Yugoslavia. In addition, it conducted capacity-building activities with national authorities from Africa, Europe, and Latin America. We are impressed with the range of assistance being provided while the MICT simultaneously remains guided by the Security Council’s direction to remain a small and efficient structure.

The Office of the Prosecutor continues efforts to locate and arrest eight remaining fugitives, three of whom will be tried by the MICT – Félicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya, and Augustin Bizimana; and five of whom will be transferred to Rwanda – Fulgence Kayishema, Charles Sikubwabo, Aloys Ndimbati, Pheneas Munyarugarama, and Charles Ryandikayo. To that end, we appreciate the Prosecutor’s review of tracking efforts and the development of updated and concrete strategies for apprehending the remaining fugitives. This includes development of two task forces, one focused on Africa, and the other on Europe, bringing together key national law enforcement authorities, as well as INTERPOL. We commend the Prosecutor for undertaking this much-needed restructuring of the tracking team to ensure it has the capacity to conduct the range of investigative activities needed to succeed in its mission.

The United States remains equally committed to these efforts. We continue to offer a reward of up to $5 million each for information leading to the arrest or transfer of these eight men, and stand ready to engage with the new task forces. We likewise call on all states, especially those in the Great Lakes region, to cooperate with efforts to apprehend these fugitives.

Finally, I want to again highlight two of my earlier points. First, while the ICTY is successfully concluding its mandate, the pursuit of justice and reconciliation remain priorities. We now focus our attention on national-level obligations to resolve remaining war crimes cases. Second, the work of both the MICT and ICTY remind us that in the face of horrific atrocities, we can work together to hold perpetrators accountable and achieve a measure of justice for victims.

Thank you, Mr. President.