Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Acting Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
June 8, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you for your briefings, President Agius and Prosecutor Brammertz. We are grateful for your hard work and the unwavering commitment of the judges, attorneys, and staff in Arusha and The Hague, as well as in field offices in Kigali and Sarajevo, in your pursuit of justice for the victims in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
We should take a moment to acknowledge the loss of Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam from Burkina Faso. Judge Kam passed away earlier this year after a remarkable career dedicated to ensuring justice for the gravest crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal, and the Mechanism, where he served an instrumental role in ensuring a fair trial for Ratko Mladic. We also thank Judge Mustapha El Baaj for stepping into the case to ensure that the appeal could continue in a timely fashion.
Today, of course, is a historic day. Earlier this morning, the Appeals Chamber announced its decision on Ratko Mladic’s appeal. Almost 30 years ago, Mladic and other perpetrators began a campaign to permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Serb-claimed territory in Bosnia and Herzegovina through a campaign of genocide, extermination, murder, and other inhumane acts. We recall with particular horror the days in July 1995, when Mladic and his forces entered Srebrenica, forcing 25,000 women, children, and the elderly out on busses, and systematically murdered the Bosniak men and boys of the area.
We hope the decision brings a measure of peace to the victims and their families. We also acknowledge the courage of the hundreds of victims who came forward to testify and without whom justice would not have been served. The verdict today also represents the hard work of the judges, lawyers, and the entire staff of the Mechanism who have dedicated themselves to gathering, organizing, and presenting evidence, finding witnesses, and supporting victims.
We also note the upcoming trial verdict in the Stanisic and Simatovic case, which we expect will shed light on their responsibility for crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the work of the Mechanism to bring charges against Felicien Kabuga, arrested last year in France. We continue to support the Mechanism’s efforts to bring the remaining Rwandan fugitives to justice, including through our offer of a reward of up to $5 million for information that leads to each fugitive’s arrest. We urge all countries to cooperate with the Mechanism in these efforts. In addition to the Mechanism’s work to finalize cases involving charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, we also note the importance of its work to ensure the administration of justice, including in the ongoing case against Anselm Nzabonimpa and other defendants.
Along these lines, we are deeply disappointed that Serbia has failed to comply with its obligations to arrest two individuals charged with contempt of court in relation to witness intimidation. Serbia, as a member of the United Nations and as a party to relevant international and regional commitments, including Serbia’s EU accession commitments under Chapter 3* of the accession acquis, has an obligation to cooperate with the Mechanism in the above case. Failure to cooperate with the Mechanism undermines the operation of international law and the effectiveness of the Security Council. The United States calls on Serbia to execute the arrest warrants without further delay.
We underscore that contempt cases are a critical aspect of the Mechanism’s work and play an important role in ensuring the rule of law. The assistance of Member States is no less important in these cases, as confidence that witnesses will testify truthfully without fear is essential for the just resolution of cases concerning the gravest crimes.
Finally, we commend the work of the Mechanism in supporting national jurisdictions in prosecutions and educational projects. As President Agius and Prosecutor Brammertz note in their report, there is still much work to do to encourage the acknowledgement of historical facts and further justice at the domestic level. Serbia’s decision to grant citizenship to Mirko Vrucinic in June last year, while he faced war crimes charges in a court in Sarajevo, for example, effectively shields him from justice. The United States calls on all states in the Western Balkans to cooperate with the Mechanism and with one another to prevent impunity from taking hold in the region.
Thank you, Mr. President.