The President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism), Judge Carmel Agius, today presented the Mechanism’s sixteenth progress report to the United Nations Security Council (Council) by video-teleconference from The Hague.
President Agius commenced by reflecting on how the world has changed since his last address in December 2019, and how acutely he feels the weight of the responsibilities entrusted to him by the Council. He reported that, despite the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mechanism has remained operational and delivered results, including through fulfilling its reporting duties regarding the Council’s third review of the Mechanism, mitigating case-related disruptions, and making remarkable headway on fugitive-tracking efforts.
With regard to the Mechanism’s judicial workload, President Agius informed Member States that due to the impact of the pandemic, the Mladić appeal, Stanišić & Simatović retrial, and Turinabo et al. contempt case are now anticipated to conclude in the first part of 2021. Nevertheless, work is ongoing and all efforts are being made for these cases to be conducted and completed as expeditiously as possible.
Turning to the recent arrest of fugitive Mr. Félicien Kabuga, the President spoke of a ‘major breakthrough’, lauding the efforts of Prosecutor Serge Brammertz and his team and praising France and other Member States for their contribution to this great accomplishment. He further thanked those who assisted the Mechanism in confirming the death of another fugitive, Mr. Augustin Bizimana. Underscoring the importance of cooperation and trust, the President encouraged all Member States to ‘use this momentum to keep advancing the cause of international justice’.
President Agius further briefed the Council about key developments related to the enforcement of sentences. These include the issuance of a revised Practice Direction on the procedure for applications for pardon, commutation of sentence or early release, and steps taken to receive regular information from enforcement States on pandemic-related measures in prisons where convicted persons are serving their sentences. He expressed his sincere gratitude to enforcement States for their cooperation in this and other respects.
Recalling last year’s 25th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and the upcoming 25th commemoration of the genocide in Srebrenica in July 2020, President Agius highlighted the dangers of endemic hatred, division, and denial. He called for a united approach against those who favour impunity over justice, stating: ’Though we know that not every pathogen causes a pandemic, we see every day that these destructive forces are becoming more virulent, and that the purveyors of hate feel emboldened. We must combat their version of events and offer our solidarity and support to all those who have suffered, and continue to suffer.‘ In this context, he urged all Member States to join the Mechanism in commemorating the genocide in Srebrenica next month.
Finally, the President paid tribute to the Mechanism’s ‘devoted Judges and staff, and indeed all those who contribute to the Mechanism’s work on a daily basis’, without whom none of the progress made would have been possible.