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

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 11, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President.

I would like to thank President Meron and Prosecutor Brammertz for their informative briefings and for being with us today.

Mr. President, the United States would like to begin by recognizing President Meron and thanking him for his service. He has led the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals since 2012, overseeing the assumption of responsibilities from the tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. President Meron’s efforts, through his leadership of the Mechanism, have helped ensure that victims of horrific atrocities addressed by the ICTR and ICTY receive meaningful measures of justice. We congratulate Judge Agius on his appointment as President, commencing in January.

Mr. President, the MICT is a model of our staffing expectations regarding gender parity. Fifty-six percent of professional staff are female, surpassing the Secretary-General’s goals. We also are happy to see the Mechanism’s commitment to strategic planning in the process of downsizing staff and reducing operational costs. The volume of work that the Mechanism conducts is impressive, given its lean operations. For example, there were 244 judicial decisions and orders issued in this past reporting period alone, in addition to an ongoing trial in the Stanisic and Simatovic case, as well as ongoing appeal proceedings in the Karadzic, Mladic, and Ngirabatware cases.

The arrest and transfer to the MICT of five accused Rwandan nationals during the reporting period is an important example of the need for the MICT’s continued vigilance against any efforts, by any party, to interfere with the integrity of its proceedings. We commend the strong cooperation between Rwandan authorities and the MICT in executing the arrest and transfer of these individuals. It also highlights the importance of the continued efforts of the Mechanism to protect the thousands of witnesses who bravely provide testimony so that justice could be served. The international community owes them a debt of continued care and protection.

We’d also like to recognize the work of Prosecutor Brammertz. In particular, we commend his progress on remaining cases, cooperation with states, strong efforts to build capacity in national judiciaries in Africa and the former Yugoslavia prosecuting war crimes, and innovative use of tribunal evidence holdings to support the search for missing persons.

We encourage the Mechanism to consider proposals to respond to concerns raised by some states about early release regimes. We note that some individuals who have been released early have subsequently denied responsibility for their crimes, and we share the concern that this denial undermines the fight against impunity. We recognize and encourage the practice of consulting with concerned states about the early release regime.

In the former Yugoslavia, we welcome the Prosecutor’s recent announcement of a partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross to support the search for missing persons. It’s important for all of us to remember that approximately 10,000 people remain missing from the conflicts in the Balkans, as Prosecutor Brammertz has noted. We call on countries in the region to cooperate with each other, the MICT, and other groups in these efforts, and commend Croatia and Serbia’s public commitments to work together to this end. Politicization of this issue callously disregards the suffering of victims and their families. We are hopeful that the evidence collection of the ICTY may assist in clarifying the fate and the whereabouts of missing persons.

We again highlight that although the ICTY closed last December, the pursuit of justice for atrocities related to the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia is not over. Many hundreds of cases remain unresolved in national jurisdictions. We welcome the work of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina to file important indictments in complex cases. Discussions between the MICT and the Serbian Chief War Crimes Prosecutor are encouraging, and we remain engaged to see whether they lead to effective implementation of Serbia’s National War Crimes Strategy. We look to Croatia to demonstrate similar commitment to national cases in the next reporting period and look to all governments in the region to cooperate with one another and the MICT to resolve remaining cases.

The United States shares Prosecutor Brammertz’s concerns about ongoing denial of serious crimes and glorification of war criminals in the region. The Republika Srpska National Assembly’s decision to annul the 2004 report on the Srebrenica genocide was a step backward. We call on leaders and countries to reject efforts to deny the facts of past conflicts or to engage in revisionist history. Ensuring newer generations share an accurate understanding of the past is elemental to preventing the recurrence of atrocities.

The United States urges all states, especially states in the Great Lakes and Southern African regions, to cooperate with the MICT and undertake efforts to arrest and surrender the eight remaining fugitives indicted by the ICTR as soon as possible. The United States continues to offer up to $5 million for information leading to their arrest.

The work of the Mechanism, like that of the Rwanda and former Yugoslavia tribunals previously, reminds us that in the face of terrible atrocities, we can work together to hold accountable those responsible and to achieve a measure of justice for victims. We look forward to continuing to support the Mechanism and the fight against impunity.

I thank you, Mr. President.