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13 October 2015, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by Mr. Gilles Marhic, Minister Counsellor, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the General Assembly on Agenda items 76, 77, 128: The Reports of ICTY, ICTR and Residual Mechanism

–  Check against delivery –

 Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, Armenia, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

 We reaffirm our unwavering support for the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. We praise both Tribunals for their achievements and invaluable contributions to our shared goal of ending impunity for serious international crimes. We welcome the fact that the Mechanism increasingly assumes responsibility for all aspects of the two Tribunals’ work. We thank President Meron and President Joensen for their reports, and commend them for their efforts in completing the work of the Tribunals and progressing the work of the Mechanism. It is important that both Tribunals and the Mechanism get the support necessary to complete their mandates.

The Tribunals have played a key role in strengthening the Rule of Law and promoting long-term stability and reconciliation. Since their establishment, both Tribunals have embodied the need to fight impunity and the refusal by the international community to let the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of international concern escape justice. They were forerunners in creating jurisprudence in their field. They paved the way for the ICC.

We welcome the fact that the ICTR remains on course for closure by the end of 2015, while the closure of the ICTY is foreseen at the end of 2017, and we value the fact that both Tribunals have been taking steps to ensure a smooth handover of functions to the Mechanism. Such a smooth transition process is important in order for both branches of the Mechanism to carry on and protect the work of the Tribunals. We finally note with satisfaction that both Tribunals are committed to completing their proceedings in an efficient and timely manner, without compromising fair trial rights.  

We recall that States’ responsibility to cooperate with the Tribunals and the Mechanism remains crucial for their ability to complete their mandates, in particular cooperation in bringing those indicted to justice. With respect to the ICTR, we recall that despite continuing appeals by the international community, nine accused individuals remain at large, including six whose cases have been referred to Rwanda. The failure to arrest these fugitives is a matter of grave concern. We note with appreciation the new projects initiated by the Office of the Prosecutor of the Mechanism, jointly developed with the Rwandan authorities, in order to facilitate the tracking and arrest of the remaining fugitives. We also note with appreciation the support received from Interpol and some UN Member States, including through the United States’ “War Crimes Rewards Program”. We call upon all States concerned to intensify their efforts and cooperation with the Arusha Branch of the Mechanism in order to achieve the arrest and surrender of all remaining fugitives. Increased cooperation of UN Member States is also needed with respect to the efforts deployed by the International Residual Mechanism to relocate acquitted persons and those convicted persons released in the United Republic of Tanzania.

With regard to the ICTY, we note that at the closure of the reporting period, four trials and three appeals are pending, with all 161 indicted individuals being accounted for. We welcome the fact that the organs of the Tribunal have adopted measures to maximize the efficiency of pending judicial proceedings and to minimize delays due to the attrition of staff, the ill-health of accused persons and unforeseen complexities in some proceedings. We note that the Office of the Prosecutor has acknowledged the assistance it received from the European Union and its Member States, and we will continue to support the Office of the Prosecutor. We welcome the fact that the joint European Union/ICTY Training Project for National Prosecutors and Young Professionals from the former Yugoslavia remained a central component of the OTP’s efforts to build national capacity in the national justice sectors. We also note that the OTP remains satisfied with the level of cooperation between the Office and the authorities in the states concerned. Completing the process of rendering justice for crimes committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia is an essential contribution to lasting peace, accountability and the rule of law. Full cooperation with the ICTY remains therefore an essential condition for the Stabilization and Association Process in the Western Balkans and is an essential condition for membership of the EU.

We welcome the work of the Tribunals and the Mechanism on strengthening the capacity of national authorities to handle the remaining war crimes cases effectively. We fully support the training and information exchanges as well as the access to publicly available investigating material and evidence from the Tribunals. In the context of the twentieth anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, which was commemorated in July 2015, this is important for the Tribunal’s legacy and for the domestic capacity to adjudicate war crimes. In its Stabilization and Association Process for the Western Balkans, the EU is increasingly underlining the importance of local ownership for handling war crimes cases in line with the need to fight impunity.  In this regard, the EU’s direct budgetary support to domestic war crimes prosecution, in place since 2013 in some Western Balkan countries, complements the efforts to increase national capacities in tackling the backlog of war crimes cases.

 We note that the Office of the Prosecutor continued to promote improved regional cooperation between States of the Former Yugoslavia in judicial matters, and we welcome the fact that meaningful results were achieved in this regard, even if key challenges remain.  We call on States of the Former Yugoslavia to continue regional cooperation in criminal matters, in accordance with the rules and principles of international law, including international criminal law. We note the serious concerns expressed by the Office of the Prosecutor in the parts of the report addressing national war crimes prosecutions, in particular in relation to the fact that national prosecution offices have not yet fully adopted and implemented strategic approaches to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, including prioritization of the most complex cases.

We note that the Arusha Branch of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism continued to monitor progress in cases transferred to national jurisdictions, and that work is ongoing on a number of projects, including a regional training programme on the investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence. We welcome the fact that the ICTR’s efforts regarding capacity-building, training and education have now expanded beyond East Africa, and include the sharing of best practices and lessons learned with other international tribunals and domestic authorities.

Mr. President,

 We will continue to support both the principle and system of international criminal justice and its essential role towards lasting peace, accountability and the rule of law, and we call on all States to do the same. We urge all States to cooperate with both Tribunals and Branches of the Mechanism, in full compliance with their obligations under the relevant UNSC resolutions. It is indeed important that knowledge gained and lessons learned in the fight against impunity are not forgotten.

 I thank you.

* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

  • Ref: EUUN15-168EN
  • EU source: European Union
  • UN forum: General Assembly - Plenary
  • Date: 13/10/2015

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