International Criminal Tribunals
Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council expects to hold the semi-annual debate on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), which was established in 2010 to carry out the remaining essential functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) after their respective closures. The IRMCT’s president, Judge Theodor Meron, and the IRMCT’s prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, are expected to brief and to meet with the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals prior to the debate. A resolution is expected extending the term of the prosecutor, which expires on 30 June.
Key Recent Developments
Following the 31 December 2017 closure of the ICTY, the President of the Security Council issued a note on 2 February, saying that Council consideration of issues in connection with the ICTY and ICTR will be subsumed under the new agenda item “International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals”. (The ICTR closed on 31 December 2015.)
The IRMCT, with branches in Arusha, Tanzania and The Hague, focuses on the completion of trials and appeals from the ICTY and ICTR, locating and arresting the eight remaining fugitives indicted by the ICTR, and assisting national jurisdictions with requests related to prosecuting international crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It was established in 2010 by resolution 1966, which says “the Mechanism shall continue the jurisdiction, rights and obligations and essential functions of the ICTY and the ICTR” and “should be a small, temporary and efficient structure, whose functions and size will diminish over time, with a small number of staff commensurate with its reduced functions”. According to the resolution, the IRMCT was mandated to operate for an initial period of four years and for subsequent periods of two years, subject to reviews of its progress, unless the Security Council decides otherwise. On 19 March, the Council adopted a presidential statement requesting the IRMCT to submit a progress report by 15 April. It also requested the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals to review this report and a report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the evaluation of the methods and work of the IRMCT by 15 May, and required the review’s outcome to be “reflected by the Security Council in an appropriate form”.
The OIOS report found that overall the IRMCT “made progress towards realizing its mandate to be small and efficient” and is “mindful of the mandate to be temporary; nevertheless, some of its continuous functions are long-term in nature”. The progress report of the IRMCT, requested in the 19 March presidential statement, said that although the IRMCT continued to make progress in the fulfilment of its mandate, it faced significant challenges following the December 2017 decision of the General Assembly to approve a reduced budget, from the budget initially proposed by the IRMCT for 2018-2019. “These reductions will leave or already have left the [IRMCT] with skeletal staffing levels in many areas, opening the institution up to considerable operational risks that may have a negative impact on its ability to conduct and complete its functions in a timely and effective manner”, the progress report said.
On 17 May, Meron briefed the Council in an open debate on “upholding international law within the context of the maintenance of international peace and security”. Meron proposed a number of steps that the Council could consider to advance efforts to ensure accountability for international crimes, including revisions in the Council’s decision-making approach in addressing alleged violations of international law, such as through the development of objective criteria to be applied by the Council in assessing allegations of international crimes and related measures.
Key Issues and Options
An immediate issue is for members to adopt a resolution appointing a prosecutor of the IRMCT. The term of the current prosecutor expires on 30 June, as set out in resolution 2269.
A key issue is for members to continue monitoring the work of the IRMCT and the implementation of its mandate, and to evaluate these in light of the recent OIOS report, the IRMCT progress report, and the reduced 2018-2019 budget approved by the General Assembly. A related issue is for the Council to reflect the outcome of the review by the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals “in an appropriate form” as requested in the presidential statement adopted on 19 March. An option is for the Council to adopt a resolution or presidential statement reflecting the outcome of this process and to make any changes that are deemed necessary to the IRMCT’s mandate.
Council members have so far generally assessed the IRMCT positively—including Russia, which had been consistently critical of the ICTY—with the caveat that it must continue to fulfil its mandate expeditiously and cost-effectively. This position was emphasised by China, the UK and Russia at the 6 December 2017 debate. In its statement, Russia said the Council’s review of the IRMCT “is extremely important, and the extension of the Mechanism’s work for the next two years will depend on it”, adding “it is also time that the Council thought about approaches to ending its activities”. Ethiopia, France, Sweden, the UK and the US stressed the need to locate the eight remaining fugitives to be tried by the IRMCT.
Peru is the chair of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals.
UN Documents on International Criminal Tribunals
|Security Council Resolutions
|29 February 2016 S/RES/2269
|This was a resolution that appointed Serge Brammertz as the prosecutor of the Mechanism with effect from 1 March until 30 June 2018.
|22 December 2010 S/RES/1966
|This resolution established the residual mechanism.
|Security Council Presidential Statement
|19 March 2018 S/PRST/2018/6
|This was a presidential statement on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals
|Security Council Meeting Records
|17 May 2018 S/PV.8262
|This was an open debate on “Upholding international law within the context of the maintenance of international peace and security”.
|6 December 2017 S/PV.8120
|This was a debate on the ICTY and International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, in which the presidents and prosecutors of these bodies briefed.
|13 April 2018 S/2018/347
|This was the progress report on the IRMCT.
|8 March 2018 S/2018/206
|This was the OIOS report on the IRMCT.
|2 February 2018 S/2018/90
|This was a note by the Council president announcing the new agenda item “International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals”.