Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism), today addressed the United Nations Security Council about the work of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP).
He began by updating the Security Council on progress in the prosecution of the final trial and appeals before the Mechanism. Prosecutor Brammertz noted the swift progress in the presentation of the Prosecution’s evidence in the Kabuga trial. He announced that subject to further developments, the Prosecution anticipates that it will complete the presentation of its evidence in the 2nd quarter of 2023, while the appeal hearing in the Stanišić and Simatović case is scheduled for the end of January 2023.
The Prosecutor also briefed the Security Council about the appeal judgment in the Fatuma et al. case. He expressed his satisfaction that Augustin Ngirabatware’s attempt to influence witnesses in order to overturn his genocide convictions was detected and halted. He noted, “We trust that by prosecuting these crimes now, we deter others from similar attempts in the future.”
Turning to the search for the remaining fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Prosecutor Brammertz updated the Security Council that cooperation with South Africa is now moving in a positive direction. He further recognized the continued support of the Government of Rwanda.
The Prosecutor further drew the Security Council’s attention to the more than 1,000 fugitives wanted by Rwandan authorities for crimes committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. He explained that while tracking the four remaining ICTR fugitives, the OTP has been uncovering some of these other fugitives in countries around the world. He said that “to escape justice, they lied about their pasts and abused the refugee process,” and that “in their new homes, many continue to promote genocide ideology.” Prosecutor Brammertz called upon the international community to assist Rwanda to account for all fugitives suspected of genocide.
With respect to national prosecutions of crimes committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Prosecutor Brammertz reminded the Security Council that there are still thousands of cases that need to be completed in national courts. He explained that national prosecutors continue to request critical assistance from the OTP, and that this trend will continue for a number of years to come.
Regarding the former Yugoslavia, the Prosecutor highlighted that “the most significant issue remains regional judicial cooperation,” which is “essential because today, the victims and the perpetrators often live in different countries.” He noted that while there are positive developments in cooperation between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, “prosecutors in the region report that they are not receiving the cooperation they need from Croatia in cases involving Croatian suspects.”
Prosecutor Brammertz explained that Croatian authorities had informed him that the investigation and prosecution of their nationals is a national security issue. “This stance,” he said, “turns justice into a political matter, when it should only be about an impartial judicial assessment of the evidence and the law.” He noted, “Prior to joining the European Union, Croatia was at the forefront of promoting justice and effective regional judicial cooperation. Regrettably, it is no longer playing that role.” The Prosecutor committed to continue engaging with Croatian authorities.
The Prosecutor reported once again on the continuing denial of war crimes and glorification of convicted war criminals in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. In all countries, the senior political leaders call into question the facts of the crimes committed, praise convicted war criminals and create an atmosphere of denial and glorification.
He said, “These are not the words and acts of the margins, but of the political and cultural centres of the region’s societies.” Prosecutor Brammertz called upon all officials and public figures in the region to act responsibly.
In conclusion, Prosecutor Brammertz expressed the OTP’s gratitude for the support of the Security Council.