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

Michael Barkin
Senior Policy Advisor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 11, 2019


Thank you for your briefings, President Agius and Prosecutor Brammertz. We are grateful for the unwavering commitment of the judges, attorneys, and staff in Arusha, The Hague, Kigali, and Sarajevo, to the pursuit of justice for the victims in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. President Agius, we welcome your efforts to improve efficiencies and harmonize operations of the two branches of the Mechanism as the remaining cases pending before the Tribunal draw to a close. This focus is helping to achieve the lean operations envisioned by the Security Council when it established the Mechanism in 2010.

We’re looking forward to the Council’s review of the progress of the Mechanism’s work next year pursuant to Resolution 1966. President Agius, your report predicts that 2020 will mark an important year in concluding the vast majority of the Mechanism’s current judicial work. The conclusion of appellate proceedings in the Mladić case will be a landmark in the history of international and criminal law. And let us be very clear about exactly the kind of acts that we’re committed and that bring us to this meeting today.
General Ratko Mladić served as the commander of the Bosnian Serb Army and his forces systematically murdered Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, raped women and girls, shelled 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. So, we welcome and celebrate the Tribunal’s work to rule on General Mladić’s responsibility for grave crimes committed during the war.

Similarly, we support the work of the Mechanism in 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. We also support the contempt proceedings in the Turinabo and Ngirabatware cases. Attempts to interfere with witnesses or otherwise undermine court proceedings are a grave threat to the rule of law and must be dealt with seriously. 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 also continue to support the Mechanism’s efforts to apprehend the remaining eight 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 to bring these people, wanted for some of the worst crimes in history, to justice. To this end, it is absolutely essential that requests for cooperation be met by Member States with the swiftness and utmost seriousness that the victims and survivors deserve. When we don’t cooperate with the Mechanism, fugitives remain at large and impunity reigns.

It’s deeply troubling that the Prosecutor continues to report the ongoing challenge of genocide denial and non-acceptance of historical truths in both Rwanda and the Balkans. We cannot bring back those whose lives were lost. But we would fail to ensure justice for them and their loved ones if we do not act forcefully when leaders seek to turn certain populations into scapegoats for society’s ills or deny historical facts.

In her guilty plea to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, former Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavšić spoke from her own experience, warning that where leadership relies on stoking fear and prejudice, and becomes a victimizer, the result is quote “graves, refugees, isolation, and bitterness against the whole world” unquote. We must re-commit to protecting the welfare of civilians during armed conflict and holding those who do not accountable. The Mechanism has been an important part of this work and we continue to support its efforts on behalf of victims.

Thank you.