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It has been 25 Years since the first Witness entered the Courtroom of the ICTY to testify in the Tadic Case

The Principals of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism), President Carmel Agius, Prosecutor Serge Brammertz and Registrar Abubacarr Tambadou, today issued the following statement on the occasion of International Criminal Justice Day:

“International Criminal Justice Day is an annual reminder of our shared responsibility to support international criminal justice in all its forms and fora, of our commitment to combating impunity for horrific crimes everywhere, and of our mission to bring perpetrators to justice.

Considering it has been 25 years since the first witness entered the courtroom of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to testify in the Tadić case, it is fitting to reflect upon the path taken by those who survived atrocities and found the strength to speak out and testify against the perpetrators. International criminal justice is very much dependent upon their courage.

Since that seminal hearing a quarter of century ago, the ICTY, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and the Mechanism have together provided around 7,000 witnesses with a safe environment to share their stories. It is the first-hand experiences of victims and witnesses that have filled the pages of judgements. Without the victims’ willingness to come forward, the seat of the accused would have remained empty. Without their voices, international justice would have been silent.

It is not possible to overstate the ordeals of victims of international crimes. Some of their unimaginable pain and suffering is well documented in thousands of pages of transcripts and of judgements. As Trial Chamber II stated in the ICTR Nyiramasuhuko et al. case, “[t]he evidence presented by [the] survivors … is among the worst encountered by this Chamber; it paints a clear picture of unfathomable depravity and sadism”. These are ordinary individuals with extraordinary bravery and fortitude.

International Criminal Justice Day is a tribute to what the victims have achieved, as well as a chilling reminder of what they had to undergo. Their testimonies have enabled judges to render fair judgements, informed the public of the truth, and assisted in the promotion of reconciliation. This day is also a reminder of our role in providing victims and their families with the justice they deserve, in the hopes of alleviating their pain and helping them to find some measure of peace.

In this regard, today we stand united as well against denial and revisionism, against unacceptable attempts to erase victims’ horrific experiences from history or to rewrite the cause for their trauma. The ad hoc Tribunals and the Mechanism have rendered over 160 judgements that constitute a bulwark against the waves of denial. These judgements are reinforced by robust actions and dozens of prosecutions for contempt, against those who endeavour to influence witnesses in order to undermine established facts. 

And finally, International Criminal Justice Day encompasses a message of hope, that our global efforts to promote the rule of law will not only deter perpetrators and prevent the next international crime, but will fortify respect for fundamental principles of humanity. On this day, and every day, let us join in striving for this ideal and in supporting the victims’ quest for justice.”

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