You are here


Address by Judge Vagn Joensen, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to the United Nations Security Council

Mister President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin by extending my congratulations to the distinguished representative of Malaysia, His Excellency Ambassador Dato’ Ramlan Ibrahim who presides over the Security Council in June. I also seize this opportunity to welcome the distinguished representatives of Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela who have joined the Council since my last briefing in December 2014. I wish Your Excellencies all the best for a successful tour of duty, and on behalf of the Tribunal I would also like to express the gratitude of the entire Tribunal to all of the governments of this esteemed Council for the support they have provided as we approach the completion of our mandate and closure of the Tribunal.

Please allow me to once again express my sincere appreciation also to the UN Legal Counsel, Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, the Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Mr. Stephen Mathias, and the staff of the Office of the Legal Counsel for the continued support they provide as a liaison between the Tribunal and the Security Council.           

Excellencies, it remains an immense honour for me to provide the distinguished members of the Security Council with an update on the progress towards the completion of our mandate, especially as it is expected that this may be my penultimate briefing before the Council.



First, I will provide an update on the progress of the judicial work. I am happy to report that the Appeals Chamber has now completed its work with respect to all appeals from ICTR trial judgements, with the exception of one case, the Nyiramasuhuko et al. or “Butare” case concerning six persons.

Following the oral hearings which took place in April 2015, the Butare case is now in its final stage, judgement drafting. As previously reported, the scope and complexity of the appeals in the Butare case combined with continued departures of experienced staff and the need to rule on voluminous pre-appeal litigation prior to the oral hearings has plagued the appeal team and caused considerable strain on their workload. Nonetheless, the delivery of the Butare Appeal judgement remains projected for later this year, and more precisely, we expect the judgement to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2015. The formal closure of the Tribunal is still expected to occur before the end of 2015 following the rendering of the judgement. I commend the judges and all of their support staff for the tremendous work they continue to do to ensure that the extremely large and complex Butare appeal is completed as projected.

I would also like to note that in December 2014, in light of the projected timeline for the completion of the Butare appeal and considering the current Judges’ involvement in cases before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”), I requested that the Secretary-General convey my request for the extension of the terms of office of the ICTR judges to this Council. On behalf of the Tribunal and my fellow judges, please allow me to express our gratitude for the support shown by Member States in Security Council Resolution 2194 (2014) which granted the requested extensions.

Excellencies, considering the significant work that the Appeals Chamber continues to undertake and bearing in mind their commitment to finalising our sole remaining Appeals case without delay, I feel that it is important for me and for this Council to acknowledge the dedication and commitment demonstrated by all of the Judges and staff of the Tribunal in The Hague and in Arusha, who work under extremely tight deadlines to ensure that we meet our Completion Strategy goals. I would also like to commend President Meron for his leadership of the ICTR Appeals Chamber and thank him for the assistance he provides with respect to the transition of functions to the Mechanism and to me in my role as Duty Judge of the Arusha branch of the Mechanism. It is also important to recognise the work of Prosecutor Jallow and Registrars Majola and Hocking as well as the work from their respective Offices, all of which have been instrumental in our progress towards completion and the transition to the Mechanism.


As I have done in the past, I would now like to briefly update the Council on the issue of reparations for victims. As previously reported to this Council, the International Organisation for Migration has completed and submitted a draft Assessment Study to the Government of Rwanda on the issue of reparations and possible ways forward. Once the report is finalised, which should occur in the coming months, it shall be transmitted to relevant stakeholders and follow-up activities will be planned. I would like to take this opportunity to renew my praise for the efforts being undertaken to ensure that this project continues to move forward. 

I now return to the very troubling issue of relocating the acquitted and convicted released persons still residing in Arusha. The issue of relocation remains a daunting one and the challenges that the ICTR has faced with relocating these persons, some of which have been residing in a UN safe house for over a decade, have been brought to this Council’s attention on numerous occasions. As the ICTR makes preparations to close its doors it is only appropriate that it passes this important duty onto the Mechanism, which assumed responsibility for relocation and care of the acquitted and released persons in Arusha on 1 January 2015. However, until its closure the ICTR remains committed to providing any support and assistance that the Mechanism requests. In this regard, we once again call for the urgent assistance of the Security Council to find a sustainable solution to this issue.


I next turn to the transition to the Mechanism. I am proud to report that the Mechanism’s reliance on the ICTR for administrative and other services has been significantly reduced, and the Mechanism continues to assume responsibilities pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010) and in line with the Transitional Arrangements. The monitoring of all ICTR cases referred to national jurisdictions is now fully the responsibility of the Mechanism, however, the ICTR continues to assist the Mechanism by providing interim monitors in the French cases.

I would also like to draw the attention of the Council to several cases of contempt/false testimony before the Tribunal. In May 2015, as part of an exhaustive review of judicial work being transitioned to the Mechanism, it was determined that there are, in fact, four cases of contempt/false testimony before the Tribunal. These indictments were confirmed prior to 1st July 2012 and according to the Transitional Arrangements Annexed to Resolution 1966 (2010) remain the responsibility of the ICTR. Considering that all of the suspects remain at large and that even if the trials were to commence today the ICTR would likely be unable to complete them prior to closure, I have assigned benches to review the indictments and ascertain whether any action is necessary prior to closure of the ICTR in order to preserve the possibility of these cases being prosecuted by the Mechanism.

With respect to the Tribunal’s archives, the ICTR remains devoted to ensuring that records are prepared in a manner that will facilitate their effective management after being transferred to the Mechanism. I am pleased to report that as of 5 May 2015, the Tribunal has transferred to the Mechanism more than 1,700 linear meters of records comprising more than 75% of physical records anticipated for transfer. Judicial records relating to the Butare case have been separated for transfer following the appeal judgement, while all other records have been transferred or are scheduled for transfer before the Tribunal closes. Despite the challenges presented by the volume and nature of the records and downsizing of human resources, the Tribunal is hopeful that the preparation and transfer of its records will be completed on time. 


As I anticipate briefing this Council as President of the ICTR only one more time after today, I would like to conclude my remarks with a word on the Tribunal’s legacy. Apart from the judicial work which continues to consume most of our attention, the Tribunal has taken its impending closure as an opportunity to ensure that the lessons learnt in the creation, operation, and closure of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal are preserved for posterity and shared with those Courts, both international and domestic, who will succeed the ICTR. The 20th anniversary of the ICTR provided the Tribunal with one such opportunity as representatives from various Courts and academia travelled to Arusha, The Hague and New York in November and December 2014 to reflect on the Tribunal’s impact on peace and reconciliation in Rwanda. These events allowed for discussions on the initiatives that the ICTR has created to share developed practices with continuing judicial institutions as well as other initiatives, such as the best practices manuals created by the Office of the Prosecutor, the aim of which is assisting other international and national courts to build on the experience of the ICTR.

Most recently, a workshop on the best practices and lessons learnt in Chambers was held at the International Criminal Court (“ICC”), where representatives from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the ICC, the ICTR, the ICTY, and the Mechanism engaged in discussions on the technical aspects of providing legal assistance to the judiciary during the pre-trial, trial, and appellate phases. This workshop also facilitated discussions about what else can be done to ensure that the lessons learnt in managing trials at the ICTR are not lost with its closure. I wish to commend all involved in organising these workshops, which I hope will continue as they provide an important forum to learn from the past by examining what works, what needs improvement and how judicial institutions can continue to evolve.

Excellencies, it is, as always, a distinct privilege to address this Council and on behalf of the Tribunal I wish to express our gratitude for the support that your governments continue to provide. As we make arrangements for closure, your continued assistance remains crucial to the efforts that we are making to ensure that the Tribunal closes its doors with its mandate completed and its legacy secured. 

Thank you very much.

For information only - Not an official document

UN-ICTR External Relations and Communication Outreach Unit | Tel.: +1 212 963 2850