ADDRESS TO THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
SIX-MONTHLY REPORT ON THE COMPLETION STRATEGY
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA
JUDGE DENNIS BYRON, PRESIDENT
4 June 2009
Mr. President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was 15 years and two months ago, on 7 April 1994, when the Rwandan genocide started. Three months later, at least 800.000 people had been killed, not to speak of the number of victims of rape, mutilation and torture, not to mention the psychological damage done to millions. Only a few months after the end of the atrocities, the Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda with high expectations and ambitious goals. The Council was “convinced that … the prosecution of persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law would … contribute to the process of national reconciliation and to the restoration and maintenance of peace.” I would suggest that the Tribunal has fulfilled many of the expectations of the Council, and we remain committed to ensuring that our legacy will be satisfactory to all Rwandans.
As I present today to you the 11th Completion Strategy Report, I am mindful that I am not here merely to report the achievements of the Tribunal, but to acknowledge that the credit for those achievements is yours. At no small expense you have supported this Tribunal, which marks a milestone in articulating and protecting fundamental human rights without regard to ethnicity, local politics, or national boundaries. Your support of our efforts demonstrates your commitment to the proposition that man’s inhumanity to man cannot be excused as an inevitable trait of human nature. It is a choice for which every perpetrator of atrocities can be and must be held responsible.
The ICTR has accomplished much since it was established in November 1994. It has rendered judgments concerning forty-four defendants in complex cases under difficult conditions. Yet equally important, the Tribunal has established a judicially verified factual record of the events in Rwanda that will serve as a background for the remaining trials, as a resource for historians, and as a major contribution to the process of reconciliation.
But we are not complacent. In the six months since I last reported to you in December, the Tribunal has rendered three judgements involving six accused. Between now and the end of this year, we expect six judgments in other single-accused cases. The first months of this year have also seen the completion of the evidence phase in two of the largest multi-accused trials, Butare and Military II. These two and the Bizimungu case are now all in judgement drafting phase, involving in total some 14 accused. In the fifth multi-accused case,the Karemera trial, we are currently awaiting the decision of the Appeals Chamber with respect to our order to sever one of the defendants whose continued illness has delayed the proceedings.
The maximum possible number of ten new cases projected for 2009 during my last presentation to the Security Council did become a reality. Four of these ten new cases have commenced as of today and in one of them the evidence phase has already been completed.
The Tribunal continues with its efforts to improve the management of the trials, from the pre-trial stage to the drafting of judgements. Nevertheless, the commencement of several of the new trials had to be adjourned for a variety of reasons, including disclosure issues, the unanticipated resignation of counsel in three cases shortly before the scheduled date for the trial, the death of a defence counsel, and the recusal of a Presiding Judge. Despite these delays, we continue to make all efforts to meet the projections and to conclude the evidence phase by the end of the year to the extent possible.The delayed start of some trials requires, however, contingency planning for a possible spill-over of hearings into the first months of 2010. These delays could also affect the schedule for the judgement drafting process, both in the new and the ongoing cases, as the same judges will be in trial and in deliberation for judgements. However, with a caveat for the Karemera trial, we aim at judgement delivery in all cases in the course of 2010. It is in this context that we invite the Council to approve our request for the extension of the mandate of our trial judges until 31 December 2010.
Three new ad litem judges joined the Tribunal in January and are part of the bench in several new trials. Our efforts to recruit a fourth additional judge from the roster were not successful, and the roster has been depleted. However, as evidence of our commitment to downsizing wherever possible, and also to prevent further delays that might have been incurred by the nomination process, we have decided to try the remaining new cases with the judges currently serving at the Tribunal and not to request the appointment of additional ad litem judges. At the same time, this decision puts without doubts an additional burden on the currently serving judges, who are all sitting in at least two, often in three cases in parallel.
The inequality between permanent and ad litem judges concerning certain entitlements remains a major source of concern. Following Resolution 1855 of 2008 which abandoned the requirement for a permanent judge to be included in each bench, the ad litem judges are now nearly identical in authority to the permanent judges and on equal terms regarding responsibility and case load. Ad litem judges will preside in several of the new cases. Addressing the inequality in status is crucial not only to ensure the motivation and commitment of these judges, but also as a matter of simple equity.
ICTR is faced with a turnover of staff that constantly increases and is exacerbated by the insecurity about the short contract duration currently being offered by the Tribunal. Loss of experienced staff translates to loss of institutional memory which is not easily replaceable by engaging new staff. This emphasizes the need to ensure that experienced staff is retained as long as their services are required.
Although much has been achieved, important tasks remain. Fifteen years after the genocide, 13 fugitives are still at large, four of them earmarked for trial before the Tribunal as high-level accused. I reiterate strongly my call upon Member States to cooperate fully with the Prosecutor’s efforts to ensure their arrest and transfer to Arusha during this last period of the Tribunal’s mandate. For an international community committed to the fight against impunity, letting those indicted for the most serious crimes escape trial, is not an acceptable option.
The cooperation and assistance of the Member States remains indeed a cornerstone for the successful completion of the Tribunal’s mandate in many respects. Two weeks ago, I signed decisions for the transfer of further nine convicts to a Member State for the enforcement of their sentences. The support of the international community is still urgently required for the relocation of the two acquitted persons remaining in Arusha. I would like to reiterate my call for your cooperation in this matter.
Mr. President, Your Excellencies, as you are aware, the Tribunal is currently in the process of preparing the budget proposals for the 2010–2011 biennium. The remaining work load is enormous, and our ability to successfully complete it, is dependent on the adequacy of both financial and human resources. Mr President, even though the Security Council is not the forum to discuss budgetary matters, kindly allow me to seize this opportunity to ask for the support of Member States in ensuring that the Tribunal is provided with the resources needed to complete its tasks. Even in these difficult times of economic crisis, I am convinced that all Member States remain committed to the goal of delivering high quality justice to the victims of the Rwandan tragedy. We can only achieve these goals set for our work by the international community if the necessary resources are provided.
While the Tribunal continues working at full speed, preparations have to be made for the future after the closing down of the Tribunal. The Secretariat has been consulting the Tribunal extensively during the preparation of the Report to the Security Council on the Residual Mechanisms and the Archives. I am confident that the report will provide a very solid and comprehensive basis for the difficult decisions the Security Council will have to make on these matters. I trust that our joint goal of effectively avoiding impunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda in 1994 will be the overarching principle guiding your decisions.
Let me conclude by expressing, on behalf of all the judges and all the staff of ICTR, our sincere appreciation for the continuous support of your esteemed governments. I would also like in particular to thank the staff members of the UN Secretariat for their invaluable advice and support, and I must single out the Office of Legal Affairs in this regard. Our joint efforts to bring to justice those who committed the most atrocious crimes in Rwanda in 1994 are sending a powerful message to the world: Even if fifteen years have passed, even if it has been a burdensome process with challenges and flaws, even if not all indictees have been arrested as yet: We must and we will continue fighting against the culture of impunity and for accountability and for justice. The goal of successful reconciliation and enduring peace in the Great Lakes region will only be achieved if all those concerned can trust the power of this message.
Thank you very much.