Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT)

Emily Pierce
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
July 17, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you President Agius and Prosecutor Brammertz for your briefings. We appreciate the work of the Mechanism and the tireless dedication of its judges, attorneys, and staff.

We also thank President Agius for his leadership over the last six months. His stated priorities of ensuring timely and efficient proceedings while ensuring fair trials for defendants, harmonizing operations of the Arusha and The Hague branches, and fostering a positive work environment are very welcome. We particularly commend President Agius’ commitment to take action on allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the Mechanism. We are also encouraged by the announcement of a new approach to early releases which will allow for consultation with stakeholders to increase transparency and allow for the consideration of the full impact of a decision on early releases.

The ongoing work of the Mechanism includes very important cases, including the appellate proceedings in the Mladić case, the ongoing Stanišić and Simatović trial, and pre-trial proceedings in Turinabo.

We should also take a moment to highlight the ruling of the Appeals Chamber regarding Radovan Karadžić in March, upholding his convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, because we are just one week past the anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica.

Twenty-four years ago, after 30,000 Bosnian Muslim women, children, and elderly men were forcibly removed from Srebrenica, more than 8,000 men and boys were murdered. The Appeals Court upheld the Trial Chambers determination that these murders—the largest mass killing in Europe since World War II—were the direct result of the decision made by Karadžić and his accomplices to destroy the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica.

To accomplish these evil ends, Karadžić and others first engaged in a propaganda campaign to depict Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats as enemies of the Serbs, exploiting distrust and suspicion to create the kind of climate in which genocide became possible.

It is because we continue to live in the shadow of that crime that we are deeply alarmed when we see convicted war criminals being glorified and unscrupulous leaders rewriting historical events. Those who deny the truth, manufacture distrust of the institutions of justice, deny the common humanity of their neighbors, and exploit the pain of victims for their own purposes must be condemned. We do a grave injustice to those who lost their lives when we are silent in the face of the politics of division and hatred.

Although Karadžić hid for over a decade, the fact that he was found and prosecuted is a powerful testament to the courage of the victims who testified and their devotion to justice.

But the burden is not on victims to bring justice to those who perpetrated crimes against them, but rather on states. We applaud the Mechanism’s continued search for the eight Rwandans still wanted for their roles in the 1994 genocide, 25 years ago. These individuals are accused of being responsible for some of the most appalling acts of our time: Felicien Kabuga, who allegedly financed the genocide; Protais Mpiranya, who led the Presidential Guard Battalion and is accused of being responsible for the killing of many moderate politicians and UN peacekeepers; and Augustin Bizimana, who led the Ministry of Defense. These men and five others remain at large, and it is all of our responsibility to bring them to justice.

Since 1998, the United States has offered financial rewards for information that leads to the arrest of Rwandan indictees and fugitives from the former Yugoslavia. We continue to offer up to $5 million for any information that leads to the arrest of these eight individuals, and let this, and the Karadžić case, be a message to them: we will not stop looking.

If there is anything all states need to stand behind, it is justice for victims of genocide. We welcome South Africa’s stated commitment to fully cooperate with the Mechanism, but we were disappointed to hear that it had not yet taken action on the Mechanism’s requests. We urge the government to coordinate closely with the Mechanism in the search of fugitives.

Finally, this is a transition phase for the Mechanism and its role ensuring that accountability winds down and the responsibility increasingly lies with national authorities to finish the task of prosecuting remaining cases.

As the ICTY and the ICTR were pioneers in international criminal law, the Mechanism is a trailblazer now, showing how knowledge and skills can be transferred to national jurisdictions. We also commend the Mechanism’s work to build capacity in national judiciaries in Africa and in the former Yugoslavia to build new generations of attorneys able to prosecute atrocity crimes in their own systems. As the Prosecutor reported, the Mechanism has received an unprecedented number of requests for assistance. This demonstrates its immense and ongoing value in national systems.

The United States would like to emphasize its continued commitment to accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims. We will continue to remember those who lost their lives in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and stand with their families and communities in their efforts to attain justice.

I thank you.