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 its prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, are expected to brief during the debate and to meet with the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals prior to this.
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—of the 93 persons indicted by the ICTR, six remain at large—and assisting national jurisdictions in handling requests related to prosecuting international crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The Council most recently extended the IRMCT’s operating period and Brammertz’s term until 30 June 2022 with the adoption of resolution 2529 on 25 June 2020. The resolution requested the IRMCT to continue to take steps to enhance efficient, effective and transparent management, including clear and focused projections of completion timelines. The resolution also stressed the need for continued efforts to ensure geographic diversity and gender balance of staff, and further reduction of costs by using flexible staff engagement.
A 23 April statement on operations of the IRMCT during the COVID-19 pandemic said the IRMCT has “remained operational and remains committed to minimizing interruptions to its activities to the greatest extent possible”. The IRMCT’s courtrooms in The Hague and Arusha “have been adapted to allow for the safe conduct of the hearings, allowing for in-person or remote participation of judges, counsel or the accused”. In March, the trial in the contempt case of Prosecutor v. Maximilien Turinabo et al. resumed before the Arusha branch of the IRMCT. In April, the Trial Chamber at The Hague branch of the IRMCT concluded the hearing of closing arguments in the case of Prosecutor v. Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović.
On 11 May, Agius sent a letter to the Council reporting that Serbia continues to fail to comply with its international obligations to arrest Petar Jojić and Vjerica Radeta and surrender them to the IRMCT. The accused, who reside in Serbia, are charged with contempt of the ICTY. According to the letter, this is the third time that Serbia’s non-compliance in this case has been referred to the Security Council. It called on the Council “to take the necessary measures to ensure that Serbia fulfils its obligations”.
The last semi-annual debate on the IRMCT was held on 14 December 2020. Agius told the Council that the IRMCT is expected to conclude a significant proportion of its pending judicial caseload by the end of May. He added that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRMCT was not able to conclude its existing proceedings in 2020, as anticipated in December 2019.
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 2529. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on projected timelines for completion of the IRMCT’s caseload is a related issue. Another issue is to consider responding to the non-compliance of Serbia, as outlined in the 11 May letter from Agius.
Council members generally assess the IRMCT and the progress it has made positively with the exception of Russia, which is consistently critical of the ICTY. Russia has also been critical of the appointment of Brammertz, who was the prosecutor of the ICTY from 2008 until its closure in 2017, and it had abstained on previous resolutions appointing him in 2016 and 2018. Negotiations on resolution 2529, which extended Brammertz’s term until 30 June 2022, were similarly lengthy and difficult. It was adopted with 14 votes in favour and one abstention (Russia). (See our What’s In Blue story on 25 June 2020.) At the most recent semi-annual debate, Russia expressed its concern over the health of Ratko Mladić. At the time of writing, the Appeals Chamber of the IRMCT had scheduled the pronouncement of the Appeal Judgement in the case of Prosecutor v. Mladić for 8 June.
Viet Nam is the chair of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals.
UN DOCUMENTS ON INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS
|Security Council Resolution|
|25 June 2020S/RES/2529||This was a resolution extending IRMCT prosecutor Serge Brammertz’s term until 30 June 2022.|
|Security Council Letters|
|11 May 2021S/2021/452||This was a letter from the president of the IRMCT on Serbia’s non-compliance.|
|16 November 2020S/2020/1119||This transmitted the bi-annual assessments of the president and prosecutor on the IRMCT.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|18 December 2020S/2020/1236||This was a record of the semi-annual debate held on 14 December 2020.|