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Address to the Security Council of of Judge Van Joensen, President: Six-monthly Report on the ICTR Completion Strategy

Mister President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin by extending my congratulations to the distinguished representative of Chad who presides over the Security Council in December, as well as the distinguished representatives of Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela for their nations’ election to the Security Council beginning in January 2015. I wish Your Excellencies all the best for a successful tour of duty.

I would also like to express the gratitude of the entire Tribunal to the distinguished representatives from Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea and Rwanda for their nations’ service to the Security Council as they near the completion of their terms, and thank all of the governments of this esteemed Council for the support they have provided as we near the completion of our mandate and closure of the Tribunal.

Please allow me this opportunity to also commend and renew my sincere appreciation to the 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 their continued efforts to act as a liaison between the Tribunal and the Security Council and for all of the support they have provided to the ICTR in organising its 20th anniversary commemoration event here in New York which will take place later today.   

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 we mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the ICTR by this very Council.

In that regard, I am happy to report that the Appeals Chamber rendered one judgement in the Bizimungu appeal in June and three additional judgments concerning four persons in September in the Karemera & Ngirumpatse, Nizeyimana and Nzabonimana cases. As of today, Appellate proceedings have now been concluded with respect to 55 persons.

Excellencies, this means that the ICTR Appeals Chamber has now completed all of its work with the exception of one case, the Nyiramasuhuko et al. or “Butare” case concerning six persons. Last week the Presiding Judge in that case, Judge Pocar, informed the parties that the appeals are scheduled to be heard in April 2015. 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 led to the scheduling of those hearings later than previously planned. Nonetheless, the projection of delivery of the Appeal judgement not before August 2015 remains unchanged. I commend the judges and their staff working on the Butare appeal for the tremendous work they are doing to complete this very large, complex appeal.

In light of the current 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 have recently submitted a request to the Secretary-General for the extension of the terms of office of the ICTR judges. These extensions take into account the most recent projections in all of the cases and, as such, I have requested extensions until July or December 2015, or until the completion of the cases to which each individual judge is assigned, if sooner. President Meron has simultaneously made a request for the extension of the terms of office of several ICTY judges in line with the same projections. It is my sincere hope that we will have Member States’ support for these extensions as they are crucial to the ability of both Tribunals’ to complete their remaining work, and, for the ICTR, to our ability to continue towards closure in 2015 in line with current projections.

Excellencies, considering the significant work that the Appeals Chamber has completed since my previous report and considering 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 and commend 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 particularly thank and commend President Meron for his leadership of the ICTR Appeals Chamber, as well as Prosecutor Jallow and Registrar Majola for their leadership of the other organs of the Tribunal, all of which have been instrumental to our Completion Strategy.


As I have done in the past, I would now like to briefly update the Council on the progress being made with respect to the issue of reparations for victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, during which Hutu and others who opposed the genocide were also killed. I am pleased to announce that the International Organisation for Migration (“IOM”) has completed and submitted a draft Assessment Study to the Government of Rwanda. The Assessment Study identifies options for reparations for victims and survivors and describes in concrete and operational terms how these options can be developed and implemented in Rwanda as well as how these programmes may be funded. The final report of the Study should be issued in the coming months and once it is issued it shall be transmitted to relevant stakeholders and follow-up activities will be planned. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the Government of Finland for its generous contribution without which the Assessment Study would not have been able to be conducted and to commend the Government of Rwanda and IOM for their efforts 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. I am pleased to inform you today that there have been some developments since the last time I briefed you on this issue. There has been a decrease in the number of acquitted persons from nine to eight resulting from the acceptance of the relocation request that the Registrar had submitted to the Kingdom of Belgium in July 2014 on behalf of General Augustin Ndindiliyimana. On 10 September 2014, the Kingdom of Belgium informed the ICTR that General Ndindiliyimana’s application for a family reunification visa had been approved. Having satisfied certain requirements, General Ndindiliyimana ultimately left the United Republic of Tanzania in September 2014 and is now resettled in Belgium. The ICTR is grateful to the Kingdom of Belgium for this assistance.

The issue of relocation however remains a daunting one and has been brought to this Council’s attention on numerous occasions and is an issue that I firmly believe represents a serious challenge to the credibility of the enforcement of international criminal justice. Despite numerous Security Council Resolutions calling upon Member States to assist the ICTR in relocating these individuals, apart from the support the ICTR recently received from Belgium regarding General Ndindiliyimana, and for which we are extremely grateful, for a number of years, all efforts made by the ICTR to relocate the remaining individuals have proven unsuccessful. The MICT will assume responsibility for relocation and care of acquitted and released persons in Arusha from 1 January 2015, and, as such, we once again call for the urgent assistance from 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 and in line with the Transitional Arrangements. The monitoring of all ICTR cases referred to national jurisdictions is fully the responsibility of the Mechanism, however, the ICTR does continue to assist the Mechanism by providing an interim monitors as required.

With respect to the Tribunal’s archives, the ICTR continues to cooperate to ensure that records are prepared in a manner that will facilitate their effective management after being transferred to the Mechanism. I am happy to report that as of 4 December 2014, the Tribunal has transferred to the Mechanism more than 1,100 linear meters of records comprising more than 50% 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 vast challenges presented by the volume and nature of the records and downsizing of human resources, the Tribunal remains hopeful that the preparation and transfer of its records will be completed on time. 


As I stand before you today, almost one month after the Tribunal commemorated its 20th anniversary, and one day after the General Assembly marked the anniversary of the Genocide Convention, it is hard not to fully appreciate the gravity of the decision that this esteemed Council made two decades ago to establish the ICTR, a decision that, together with the establishment the year before of the ICTY, would forever alter the landscape of international criminal law. To pay homage to those who lost their lives during those 100 dark days in 1994 and to once again remind the international community of what happens when cries for help go unanswered, the Tribunal held events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its creation. From 6 to 7 November, representatives from various international and domestic courts, civil society members and academics came from across the globe to attend a Symposium on the Legacy of the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania, which focused on the ICTR’s accomplishments and lessons learnt during its two decade long fight against impunity. During the Symposium, panels of experts in the field of international law and court administration discussed the significant contributions to international criminal justice by the ICTR, as well as the outreach and capacity building programmes that it created throughout its existence. On 8 November 2014, exactly 20 years after the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 955 which created the Tribunal, an event was held in Arusha to mark the occasion, and to launch the new ICTR website. A similar event will be held today at 1:15pm in the ECOSOC Chamber. We look forward to welcoming Your Excellencies as well as many other distinguished guests from the international community here in NY.

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 have shown us throughout the past two decades. 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.

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