Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism) Serge Brammertz today addressed the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
He began by informing the Security Council that in-court proceedings have recommenced, only five months after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Mechanism to shift to remote working arrangements.
At the Arusha branch, the OTP presented its witness evidence for the Turinabo et al. case in only six weeks, and is preparing now to respond to the defense cases. At The Hague branch, the oral appeal hearing was completed in Mladić in August. In Stanišić and Simatović, the presentation of evidence is now completed, and the OTP is preparing its final trial brief and closing arguments. Prosecutor Brammertz informed the Security Council that judgments in all three cases are expected by the end of May next year.
In relation to the Kabuga case, Prosecutor Brammertz reported that pre-trial work is proceeding well. Despite COVID-19 related restrictions, the OTP is intensively working to ready the case for trial and meet its pre-trial obligations. The Prosecutor further highlighted and expressed the OTP’s gratitude for the strong cooperation being provided by the Rwandan government in relation to this case.
Turning to the search for the remaining fugitives indicted by the ICTR, Prosecutor Brammertz briefed the Security Council that Fulgence Kayishema remains at large due to South Africa’s failure to provide effective cooperation over the last two and a half years.
The Prosecutor reminded the Security Council of the charges against Kayishema, particularly his alleged role in the 16 April 1994 massacre of 2,000 Tutsi civilians at Nynage Church. He recalled that “in an act of unimaginable brutality and sacrilege, a bulldozer was used to demolish the church with the refugees still inside,” crushing to death more than 1,500 women, men, children and elderly.
Prosecutor Brammertz then reported that while Kayishema had escaped justice for many years, “almost three years ago my Office finally located him” in South Africa. Following confirmation from INTERPOL, the OTP then submitted an urgent request for assistance to South African authorities seeking Kayishema’s prompt arrest.
The Prosecutor briefed the Council that unfortunately, however, South Africa took no steps to arrest Kayishema for a year and a half. It was not until December 2019 that an arrest operation was finally launched. “However, by then, Kayishema could no longer be found,” the Prosecutor noted.
The Prosecutor reported that South Africa is still not providing the cooperation required. He explained that the OTP recently sent two missions to South Africa to finally obtain important information to continue the pursuit of Kayishema. Both missions were disappointing and unsuccessful.
Reflecting on the search for the fugitives, Prosecutor Brammertz informed the Security Council that “the absence of effective cooperation continues to set back our work.” He noted, “As my Office works to resolve the challenges we face, the firm support of the Security Council will be vital. Member States should understand that when my Office requests their cooperation, we are acting with the authority given to us by the Security Council.”
Finally, the Prosecutor briefed the Security Council on the OTP’s efforts to assist national prosecutions of international crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, as well as the search for missing persons.
With respect to crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide, the Prosecutor noted recent arrests in Belgium and the Netherlands, commenting that this “demonstrates both that international cooperation is essential and that justice can be achieved in courtrooms around the world.” Prosecutor Brammertz urged full cooperation with the efforts of the Prosecutor General of Rwanda to account for hundreds more fugitives.
With respect to crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, the Prosecutor reported that as a result of the OTP’s efforts, a number of important complex case files have been transferred to Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. The Prosecutor remarked, “These developments present an important opportunity for the concerned States to clearly demonstrate their commitment to full accountability, particularly with respect to senior- and mid-level suspects who have enjoyed safe haven and impunity up to now.”
With respect to the search for persons still missing as a result of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Prosecutor Brammertz reported that the OTP continues to work with the International Committee of the Red Cross and national missing persons authorities. He said, “We can report that our efforts are producing significant results,” highlighting the mass grave recently found in Serbia and grave sites located in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the reporting period. As the Prosecutor reminded the Security Council, “More than two decades after the end of the conflicts, 10,000 families are still waiting to learn the fates of their loved ones. Accounting for all missing persons is a humanitarian imperative.”
Prosecutor Brammertz concluded his briefing by expressing the OTP’s gratitude to the Security Council for its continued support.