What's In Blue

Posted Thu 27 Jun 2024

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals: Vote on Draft Resolution*

This afternoon (27 June), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT). The draft text includes a provision re-appointing Serge Brammertz as Chief Prosecutor of the IRMCT for another two years, until 30 June 2026.


The IRMCT—with branches in The Hague, the Netherlands; and Arusha, Tanzania—focuses on completing the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which closed in December 2017 and December 2015 respectively.

Resolution 1966 of 22 December 2010 established the IRMCT and mandated it to operate for an initial four-year period beginning on 1 July 2012 and for subsequent periods of two years, unless the Council decides otherwise. The Council has reviewed the progress of the IRMCT’s work every two years since 2016. The most recent review resulted in the adoption of resolution 2637 of 22 June 2022 which, among other matters, extended Brammertz’s term until 30 June. Resolution 2637 also contained new language calling on the IRMCT to provide options regarding the transfer of its remaining activities as part of its completion strategy.

On 4 March, the Council adopted a presidential statement which, among other matters, requested the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals to review a progress report from the IRMCT and a report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the methods and work of the IRMCT and present its views and any recommendations to the Council by 15 May. The presidential statement also requested that the report from the IRMCT provide detailed timelines for the completion of its functions and realistic options for the transfer of those functions. Council members received this report on 15 April. The IRMCT has also prepared a “framework of operations to complete functions” and provided this document to the working group.

On 11 June, the Council convened for its semi-annual debate on the IRMCT. President of the IRMCT Judge Graciela Gatti Santana and Brammertz briefed. At that meeting, Russia strongly criticised the IRMCT, saying that its reports had failed “to answer to the key question as regards the ultimate and reasonable timeframe for winding down the IRMCT and/or transferring all its functions” and instead “retain vague references to the year 2052, which cannot be considered reasonable”. Russia also argued that the “IRMCT should have closed long ago” and called for the transfer of its remaining functions to national authorities and UN entities. Other Council members generally expressed positive views regarding the IRMCT and its work.

Negotiations on the Draft Resolution

Sierra Leone, the chair of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals and the penholder on the resolution, circulated the first draft of the text to Council members in late May. Following four rounds of negotiation and three further drafts, the penholder put the fifth draft under silence on 21 June and notified Council members that the vote had been postponed from 24 June until today. Silence was subsequently broken by Russia. The penholder then put a sixth draft directly in blue yesterday (26 June).

In addition to reappointing Brammertz for another two years, the draft resolution in blue includes new language taking note of the fact that the IRMCT has now accounted for the remaining fugitives indicted by the ICTR and completed its prosecutorial and judicial work concerning core international crimes. The draft also contains new text emphasising that the functions of the IRMCT are now substantially reduced and highlighting the need for the mechanism to complete its remaining functions expeditiously.

It appears that the negotiations were lengthy, difficult, and contentious. Russia apparently objected to many aspects of the draft text, provided comments on almost every paragraph, reiterated the criticisms of the IRMCT that it raised during the semi-annual debate, and pushed strongly for a concrete timeframe and deadline for the transfer of the mechanism’s remaining functions. While some of Russia’s suggestions were supported by China, they were largely opposed by other Council members, which generally have a positive view of the IRMCT and the progress it has made. In breaking silence, Russia argued that its concerns had not been addressed and contended that the text was not sufficiently balanced.

During the negotiations, Council members apparently discussed the archives of the ICTY, the ICTR, and the IRMCT and how to facilitate ongoing access to the evidence they contain once the mechanism has drawn down. Several Council members contended that the Council requires further information and suggested that both the IRMCT and the Secretary-General provide reports to the Council on the archives. Although Russia did not oppose the report from the Secretary-General, it raised concerns about the way in which the request was formulated and also objected to the proposed report from the IRMCT. The request for a report from the Secretary-General was ultimately included in the draft in blue; however, suggested text requesting the Secretary-General to report on establishing a permanent centre in the UN system that would preserve and manage the archives was removed in response to Russia’s objection. Language on the proposed report from the IRMCT was not included in the draft resolution in blue.

It appears that several Council members felt that more information was also required regarding the transfer of the other remaining functions of the IRMCT, including the enforcement of sentences and the provision of assistance to national authorities prosecuting international crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Some of these members proposed requesting that the Secretary-General provide a report outlining options for the transfer of these functions by 31 December 2025. Russia also objected to the way in which this request was formulated, arguing that it should specify that the Secretary-General should only report on options for transferring the functions of the IRMCT to national jurisdictions rather than reporting on options more broadly. Russia’s proposal was not incorporated into the draft text in blue.

Russia also apparently pushed for the inclusion of language regarding the rights of persons detained by the IRMCT. It has repeatedly emphasised the importance of protecting detainees of the IRMCT and has criticised the conditions in which they are held, often by referring to Ratko Mladić, a Bosnian Serb military leader currently serving a life sentence in The Hague. Russia has also argued that detainees should be allowed to serve the remainder of their sentences in their home states. Text referring to the importance of ensuring that the rights of persons detained by the IRMCT accord with applicable international standards relating to health care was added to the draft to address Russia’s concerns. A Russian proposal for a report from the Secretary-General on this issue was not added to the draft resolution in blue.

Language encouraging the IRMCT to cooperate with relevant countries to establish information and documentation centres, which was based on text from resolution 1966, was also an issue during the negotiations. Russia strongly opposed the inclusion of this text in the draft resolution, arguing that the creation of information centres falls within the purview of the states concerned and is therefore not a matter for the Council or the IRMCT. Other members apparently argued that the information centres are important because they preserve the legacy of the mechanism and thus contribute to the fight against impunity, and the text was ultimately retained in the draft resolution despite Russia’s objections.


Post-script: On 27 June, the Security Council adopted resolution 2740, re-appointing Serge Brammertz as Chief Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) for another two years, until 30 June 2026.

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