International Criminal Tribunals
Expected Council Action
In June, the Security Council is scheduled 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 and to meet remotely with the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals prior to this. A resolution extending the term of the prosecutor and the operating period of the IRMCT, both of which expire on 30 June 2020, is expected.
The debate, due to temporary measures adopted for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to be held as a videoconference.
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 remaining fugitives indicted by the ICTR—now seven, following an arrest in May— and assisting national jurisdictions in handling requests related to prosecuting international crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The IRMCT 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”.
Under resolution 1966, the IRMCT was mandated to operate for an initial period of four years and for subsequent periods of two years thereafter unless the Security Council decided otherwise. The Council most recently extended the IRMCT’s operating period in resolution 2422, adopted on 27 June 2018 with 14 votes in favour and Russia abstaining. The resolution, which also extended Brammertz’s term until 30 June 2020, requested the IRMCT to continue to take steps to enhance 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 in implementing the resolution.
On 28 February, the Council adopted a presidential statement which, among other things, requested the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals to review a progress report from the IRMCT as well as a report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the evaluation of the methods and work of the IRMCT by 15 May. The statement said the outcome of the review would be “reflected by the Security Council in an appropriate form”.
The OIOS report, which assessed the implementation of the recommendations contained in its previous evaluation report from 2018, found that the IRMCT was effective in reducing costs and flexibly deploying staff based on the workload. While it exceeded the gender balance targets in favour of women overall, it continued to strive to achieve geographical diversity, the report said. It also determined that further effort was needed to coordinate and share information across the three organs of the IRMCT (Chambers, Office of the Prosecutor and Registry) and to present clear and focused projections of completion timelines. The report made two recommendations, namely, to ensure systematic thinking and planning about the future and a shared vision of institution-building, and to provide clear and focused projections of completion timelines at the earliest stage possible in annual and progress reports. Council members received the progress report from the IRMCT, in accordance with the presidential statement adopted on 28 February, on 15 April.
On 16 May, Félicien Kabuga (previously one of eight remaining fugitives indicted by the ICTR, of whom there are now seven) was arrested in Paris by French authorities as the result of a joint investigation with the IRMCT Office of the Prosecutor. The arrest was welcomed by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Kabuga was indicted by the ICTR in 1997 on seven counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution and extermination, all in relation to crimes committed during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Kabuga is expected to be transferred to the custody of the IRMCT, where he will stand trial.
The last semi-annual debate on the IRMCT was held on 11 December 2019.
Key Issues and Options
An immediate issue for Council members is to adopt a resolution appointing a prosecutor of the IRMCT as the term of the current prosecutor expires on 30 June, according to resolution 2422.
A key issue for members is to continue monitoring the work of the IRMCT and the implementation of its mandate. An option is for these considerations to be informed by the most recent OIOS report and the IRMCT progress report, requested in the presidential statement adopted on 28 February. A related issue is for the Council to reflect the outcome of the review by the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals of these two reports “in an appropriate form”, also requested in the presidential statement adopted on 28 February. An option is for the Council to reflect the findings of this process in the resolution appointing a prosecutor by 30 June.
Council members generally assess positively the IRMCT and the progress it has made, with the exception of Russia, which had also been consistently critical of the ICTY. In explaining its abstention on resolution 2422, which extended Brammertz’s term until 30 June 2020, Russia expressed its opposition to the reappointment of the same officials from the ICTY (Brammertz had previously served as the ICTY’s prosecutor) and reiterated its view of the IRMCT’s “problems with its approaches to justice and its internal administration and staffing policies”. Russia also abstained on the adoption of resolution 2269 on 29 February 2016, which previously extended Brammertz’s term until 30 June 2018. In its statement at the most recent semi-annual briefing on 11 December 2019, Russia reiterated its view that the IRMCT “has inherited a flawed legacy” from the ICTY. It expressed the “hope that 2020 will bring it significantly closer to its end” and that Russia is “ready to do whatever we can to enable that to happen”.
Council members are likely to welcome the arrest of Kabuga and call for similar progress in relation to the remaining seven fugitives indicted by the ICTR, as the issue of locating them has been a longstanding one.
Viet Nam is the chair of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals.
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 Presidential Statements|
|28 February 2020S/PRST/2020/4||This was a presidential statement that updated the timelines specified in S/PRST/2018/6.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|11 December 2019S/PV.8681||The Council held its semi-annual debate on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals with briefings by the IRMCT president, Judge Carmel Agius, and prosecutor, Serge Brammertz.|
|ICTY & ICTR Reports|
|15 April 2020S/2020/309||This was the review report of the IRMCT submitted pursuant to resolution 1966 and S/PRST/2020/4.|
|18 November 2019S/2019/888||This was the assessments of the President and of the Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for
|26 March 2020S/2020/236||This was the report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services Evaluation of the methods and work of the IRMCT.|