Minister Counselor for Legal Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 14, 2020
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 are pleased that you and President Agius have been reappointed to your positions, and that Abubacarr Tambadou has been appointed as the new Registrar. Mr. Tambadou had an impressive record as Attorney General of the Gambia, and we understand that he is already making a valuable contribution to the Mechanism’s work. We also welcome Pierre St. Hilaire, the new head of fugitive tracking, whose work we have also been impressed with.
We are pleased to hear that the Mechanism was able to make progress on its judicial caseload, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that continues to affect us every day. The progress made since the last briefing is commendable, given the circumstances.
We are impressed to hear about the steps taken to allow the Mechanism’s work to continue in both its branches, and are glad the Mechanism is able to hold hearings in a way that does not jeopardize the health and safety of those involved. We thank you for these efforts and your commitment to justice in these extraordinary times.
After the historic arrest of Rwandan businessman, Félicien Kabuga, who was indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, it is good to hear that he has successfully passed into the Mechanism’s custody and that pre-trial proceedings have begun.
These developments, taking place after Kabuga spent 26 years at large, demonstrates the continued relevance and impact of the Mechanism and its work. We support its efforts to ensure that justice is meted out for Kabuga’s alleged role in the horrific acts perpetrated in Rwanda.
We will continue to support the Mechanism’s efforts to apprehend the remaining six Rwandans still wanted for their roles in the 1994 genocide. The United States continues to offer rewards of up to $5 million for information that leads to the arrest, transfer, or conviction of any of the remaining fugitives. We strongly urge all countries to cooperate fully with the Mechanism and bring these people, wanted for some of the worst crimes in history, to justice.
We further congratulate the court for successfully holding the appeal hearing for Ratko Mladić. As we all know, General Mladić served as the commander of the Bosnian Serb Army during the genocide of Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, and his forces raped women and girls, shelled and sniped the civilian population of Sarajevo, and brutalized Muslim and Croat prisoners – all with the horrifying objective of permanently removing Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory. We welcome the Mechanism’s work to adjudicate General Mladić’s responsibility for grave crimes committed during the war and await the results of the Mechanism’s judgement as soon as possible.
Similarly, we commend the Mechanism’s progress on the retrial of Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes for their alleged roles in the unlawful, forcible removal of non-Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
With regard to the contempt proceedings in the Turinabo and Jojic and Radeta cases, we are relieved that trial proceedings were finally able to commence, despite attempts to interfere with witnesses and efforts to undermine court proceedings.
We also commend the Mechanism’s efforts to support national judicial efforts, from the Balkans to Rwanda. These proceedings remain vital to ensure that the pursuit of justice will not end even as prosecutions at the Mechanism conclude. We note Rwanda’s progress in continuing to try cases related to the genocide and urge Balkan states to improve their cooperation across national systems.
We remain extremely concerned about the Mechanism’s reporting about genocide denial, the non-acceptance of historical facts, and the glorification of war criminals. We must do more to fight such rhetoric, particularly in the Balkans, and we condemn efforts by political leaders to distort historical facts and to use their platforms to increase divisions and exacerbate tensions.
We welcome the Mechanism’s recent progress increasing transparency and education regarding its work, including the launch of the Unified Judicial Database in September, additional workshops for educators, and the public streaming of court sessions. These efforts are a valuable contribution to establishing a public record of the crimes committed.
We must re-commit to protecting civilians during armed conflict and holding those who violate international humanitarian law accountable. The Mechanism has been an important part of this work and we continue to support its efforts on behalf of victims.
Thank you, Mr. President.