Statement General Assembly Briefing on the Report of the President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals

John Giordano
Public Delegate
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 23, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, President Agius for your briefing on the Mechanism. We applaud and support your unending efforts toward justice.

We commend President Agius’ continued focus on the core functions of the Mechanism: concluding residual judicial proceedings, tracking remaining fugitives, monitoring cases referred to national jurisdictions, protecting victims and witnesses, supervising the enforcement of sentences, assisting national jurisdictions, and preserving and managing the archives. These pillars have produced a sustainable, efficient, and effective Mechanism to combat the horrendous atrocities committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

We also applaud the diligent work of the Judicial Chambers. Currently, the Pre-Trial Chamber is handling its first major, multi-accused contempt proceeding in the Turinabo case. We commend the Prosecutor’s pursuit of this case, demonstrating that defiance of the ICTR and the Mechanism and disrespect for the rule of law will not be tolerated. The Trial Chamber continues to proceed with the Stanišic and Simatović trial and the Appeals Chamber is handling both the Mladić and the Ngirabatware cases. The Appeals Chamber’s March 2019 decision upholding the conviction of Radovan Karadžić and imposing a life sentence affirms the Chambers’ commitment to ensure justice for the gravest crimes.

The Chambers’ work demonstrates the Mechanism’s success at improving efficient functioning while also preserving due process for defendants. Streamlined inter-branch coordination and a high-performance work environment ensure that each organ performs its role and helps to improve gender equality and prevent harassment and abuse of authority in the workplace.

We would also again like to recognize the Mechanism’s tireless search for the eight Rwandan fugitives involved in the 1994 genocide, including its reaching out to national authorities to establish working relationships for ongoing investigations. We continue to urge all countries to cooperate fully with the Mechanism. In particular, we note that South Africa’s failure to cooperate fully with the Mechanism remains disappointing, especially given that it is serving as President of the Security Council this month. We urge South Africa to take on its responsibilities as a leader in the Security Council, and in standing against impunity for the worst crimes, and cooperate fully with the Mechanism.

Importantly, we appreciate the Mechanism’s devotion to outreach. We note the visits of President Agius to Rwanda, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and intention to visit other regions of the former Yugoslavia. His visit to Rwanda in April was particularly significant, as it was on the Twenty-fifth Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. Through these missions, the Mechanism reaffirms its goals to heal victims by engaging with their communities and recognizing the past. While the past cannot be changed, it must be memorialized and acknowledged to prevent such atrocities in the future.

We commend the Mechanism’s role in fostering and supporting sustainable transitional justice initiatives within the territories of Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, including support for capacity-building. For example, training on fugitive tracking and the investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence helps prepare the authorities where the crimes were committed to assume and fulfill responsibility to pursue justice and accountability.

We also welcome the Mechanism’s support for national prosecutions. Such prosecutions, including three pending cases in Rwanda and two in France, were referred and are being monitored by the Mechanism. The Mechanism offers its support by responding to requests for assistance in relation to these crimes. Within the last reporting period, the Prosecution received and processed one request for assistance from Rwanda and 271 requests from other Member States and international organizations. Although the Mechanism’s role in coordinating and deciding its own cases remains a lasting force for justice, we commend its efforts to build systems of justice beyond its courtroom walls.

We applaud the Mechanism’s release of an online exhibition in June 2019, which showcased witnesses’ sketches from their testimonies before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Trial Chambers. These images are truly “worth a thousand words,” helping victims better explain their experiences and bringing these stories to life. One witness, for example, sketched the Nyange Parish Church in the Kivumu commune of Rwanda, where at least 2,000 Tutsis seeking refuge were surrounded, attacked, and killed in 1994. By sharing this painful memory with the ICTR Trial Chamber, and now with the world, this witness no longer carries this story, this burden, alone.

The United States continues its commitment to holding perpetrators accountable and to achieving justice for victims. We will never forget the victims in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia. We will continue to support the Mechanism’s efforts toward justice.