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

Mark Simonoff
Legal Adviser
New York, New York
December 12, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. President Gatti Santana and Prosecutor Brammertz, thank you very much for this briefing on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals’ ongoing work to advance accountability for atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

We are grateful to President Gatti Santana for her leadership of this important institution. The Mechanism continues to do tremendous work in delivering justice for some of the gravest crimes of the past century.

The United States would like to once again express its condolences to Uganda on the passing of Judge Elizabeth Ibanda-Nahamya. We welcome the Secretary-General’s appointment of Judge Lydia Mugambe and wish her well in this role. We also look forward to the vacancy on the judicial roster being filled soon.

Notably, in May, South African authorities arrested Fulgence Kayishema, who had evaded arrest for more than 20 years. Kayishema is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the brutal murders of more than 2,000 Tutsi men, women, and children at the Nyange Parish Church.

We congratulate the Mechanism’s tracking team and South African authorities on this achievement to advance justice for all these victims. We look forward to the expeditious and fair conclusion of the legal proceedings surrounding the Mechanism’s request to transfer Kayishema into its custody.

We also note that in November, the Office of the Prosecutor announced the death of Aloys Ndimbati, another of the remaining fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. And in June, the Appeals Chamber found that Felicien Kabuga – captured 26 years after he was indicted – is not competent to stand trial.

The decision to cease Kabuga’s trial and Ndimbati’s passing cannot restore what was lost and are undoubtedly disappointments to the many victims of these atrocities. We nonetheless hope that the pursuit of these cases provided victims some comfort that the Mechanism and the international community did not forget about them.

With respect to the former Yugoslavia, the ICTY has consistently demonstrated that even the most senior military and political leaders can be held accountable for atrocity crimes. We are grateful for the decades of work by the judges, attorneys, defense counsel and other court staff of the ICTY and the Mechanism, and their immense contributions to the rule of law and the fight against impunity in the former Yugoslavia.

We appreciate the significance of the Mechanism’s recent appeals judgment in the case of Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović.

This long-awaited judgment, which recognizes the responsibility of these former government officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, is the final case involving core crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and closes an important chapter in the history of international criminal justice.

The Mechanism has served an indispensable role in carrying out the legacy of the ICTY and ICTR. We appreciate the Mechanism’s efforts to help counter genocide denial by increasing access to the public judicial records of the ad hoc Tribunals and the Mechanism, and to enhance cooperation with affected States more broadly.

As the Mechanism moves to a fully residual phase, we appreciate President Gatti Santana’s expressed priorities, including to streamline its functions. We very much look forward to discussions of the Mechanism’s framework of operations to complete its functions, and we greatly appreciate the Mechanism’s thoughtful analysis regarding this important phase of its work.

Along these lines, we appreciate the Mechanism’s efforts to respond to national authorities’ requests for assistance to advance justice in their own systems. Ultimately, national authorities must bear the primary responsibility of providing justice to victims.

As President Gatti Santana’s report notes, one of the Mechanism’s most important functions moving forward will involve supervising the enforcement of sentences handed down by the ad hoc Tribunals and the Mechanism. We recognize the twelve countries that serve as enforcement states holding those who have been convicted.

The Mechanism’s successful operation will continue to depend on close cooperation with these and other states to ensure war criminals serve out their sentences.

In closing, we acknowledge and honor the bravery and resilience of victims, survivors, and their loved ones as they continue to fight for official acknowledgement of atrocities committed in their communities. We recognize the courage of the thousands of witnesses who have participated in trials before the ad hoc Tribunals, Mechanism, and other courts. Without them, justice could not be done. The United States will continue to press for justice as the foundation for peace and stability in their communities.

Thank you, Mr. President.