International Criminal Tribunals
Expected Council Action
In December, the Security Council expects to hold its 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 Carmel Agius, and prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, are expected to brief during the debate. They may also meet with the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals prior to this. No outcome is expected. Council members expect to receive the bi-annual assessment reports of the president and the prosecutor by 2 December.
The mandate of the IRMCT expires on 30 June 2020.
Key Recent Developments
The IRMCT, with branches in The Hague, Netherlands, and Arusha, Tanzania, focuses on the completion of trials and appeals from the ICTY, which closed in December 2017, and the ICTR, which closed in December 2015. Its tasks include locating and arresting the eight remaining fugitives indicted by the ICTR, and assisting national jurisdictions in handling requests related to prosecuting international crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. ICTR was established by resolution 1966 in 2010, which says that “the Mechanism shall continue the jurisdiction, rights and obligations and essential functions of the ICTY and the ICTR”, and that it “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”.
Under resolution 1966, the IRMCT was mandated to operate for an initial period of four years and for subsequent periods of two years unless the Security Council decides otherwise. The Council most recently extended the IRMCT’s operating period (and Brammertz’s term) until 30 June 2020 in resolution 2422 adopted on 27 June 2018, with 14 votes in favour and Russia abstaining. The resolution requested the IRMCT to continue to take steps to enhance its efficiency and effective and transparent management, including “more focused projections of completion timelines and disciplined adherence thereto”; “enhancement of the geographic diversity and gender balance of staff, while ensuring continued professional expertise”; and “further reduction of costs, including through, but not limited to, flexible staff engagement”. It requested that the IRMCT update the Council in its semi-annual reports on progress achieved in implementing the resolution.
On 24 October, Agius (who assumed the presidency on 19 January) briefed the General Assembly on the seventh annual report of the IRMCT, covering 1 July 2018 to 30 June. He highlighted that most of the current caseload is expected to conclude by the end of 2020 and emphasised that next year will be an extremely busy one for the IRMCT for this reason and also with at least two major judgments expected to be issued. In order to wind up its work and avoid delays, the IRMCT will require the necessary resources and support, he said. Agius also recalled that the Mechanism is tasked with a range of other residual functions that will continue once the core judicial work is completed, including supervising the enforcement of sentences, protecting victims and witnesses, providing assistance to national jurisdictions, monitoring cases referred to national jurisdictions, and preserving and managing the archives of the IRMCT and its predecessor Tribunals.
In relation to the tracking and arrest of the eight remaining fugitives indicted by the ICTR, Agius noted that South Africa is yet to execute an arrest warrant issued by the IRMCT’s Prosecutor for a fugitive located in that country. The Office of the Prosecutor first submitted an urgent request for assistance to South Africa on 16 August 2018 on the basis of a confirmation provided by INTERPOL. He also appealed to member states over the problem of relocating nine individuals who have been either acquitted or released by the ICTR but are unable or afraid to return to their country of citizenship.
The last semi-annual debate on the IRMCT was held on 17 July, with briefings by Agius and Brammertz. Agius expressed his commitment to the efficient and timely conclusion of judicial proceedings at both the Arusha and The Hague branches of the IRMCT; enhancing inter-branch coordination and harmonisation of practices and procedures; and fostering a working environment that encourages high staff morale and performance. Brammertz told the Council that his office “is firmly focused on completing our remaining functions efficiently and effectively”. He added that his office “is generating credible intelligence on the current whereabouts of several fugitives”, however, the cooperation needed from member states to secure arrests has so far been lacking.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is for members to continue monitoring the work of the IRMCT and the implementation of its mandate, including the areas specified in resolution 2422.
With the exception of Russia, Council members generally assess positively the IRMCT and the progress it has made. Russia, which had also been consistently critical of the ICTY, said in its statement at the briefing on 17 July that it would “not contribute any funding to the part of the UN budget that has been designated for” the IRMCT. South Africa said it believes “states have an international obligation to cooperate with the Mechanism and the Prosecutor” and that South Africa does “not support impunity”. In relation to the execution of the arrest warrant issued by the IRMCT’s Prosecutor for a fugitive located in that country, South Africa said, “our competent domestic authorities are actively seized of the matter and have been in contact with the Office of the Prosecutor with a view to finding solutions”.
Peru is the chair of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals until it leaves the Council at the end of the year. Incoming Council member Viet Nam is expected to take over as chair, starting in January 2020.
UN DOCUMENTS ON INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS
|Security Council Resolutions|
|27 June 2018S/RES/2422||This was a resolution extending IRMCT prosecutor Serge Brammertz’s term until 30 June 2020.|
|22 December 2010S/RES/1966||This resolution established the residual mechanism.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|17 July 2019S/PV.8576||This was the semi-annual debate on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals with briefings by the IRMCT’s president, Judge Carmel Agius, and prosecutor, Serge Brammertz.|
|Security Council Letter|
|20 May 2019S/2019/417||This was a letter transmitting the assessments of the President and of the Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.|