Yesterday, President Carmel Agius presented the seventh Annual Report of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism) to the United Nations General Assembly (Assembly). This was President Agius’ first address to the Assembly since he assumed office in January 2019.
President Agius opened by congratulating His Excellency Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria on his election as President of the seventy-fourth session of the Assembly. He then apprised the Assembly of judicial developments at the Mechanism’s two branches, indicating that most of the current caseload is expected to conclude by the end of 2020. He recalled however that the Mechanism is tasked with a range of other residual functions that will continue once the core judicial work is completed, including supervising the enforcement of sentences, protecting victims and witnesses, providing assistance to national jurisdictions, monitoring cases referred to national jurisdictions, and preserving and managing the archives of the Mechanism and its predecessor Tribunals.
On the subject of the tracking and arrest of the remaining fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), President Agius noted that South Africa is yet to execute an arrest warrant issued by the Mechanism’s Prosecutor for a fugitive located in that country. He urged all Member States to adhere to their international legal obligations in this regard. The President also sought support from Member States in relocating nine individuals who have been either acquitted or released by the ICTR but are unable or afraid to return to their country of citizenship. The rights of these individuals are being gravely affected by the status quo, he said, and it is vital to the credibility of both the Mechanism and the United Nations that they be able to rebuild their lives.
President Agius next reported on initiatives taken to increase harmonisation of practices and procedures between the Mechanism’s Arusha and The Hague branches, with a view to enhancing cooperation and optimising efficiency. He further drew the Assembly’s attention to the Mechanism’s restrained budget submission for 2020, emphasising that its approval will allow the Mechanism to finalise much of the existing judicial workload and position itself for a lean post-2020 scenario.
In this context, the President stressed his conviction that international criminal justice will always be worth the international community’s investment of time and resources. He urged Member States to continue to support the Mechanism, as well as other international courts and tribunals, to the fullest extent possible, so that the values that led to the establishment of the United Nations 74 years ago may be upheld.
In closing, President Agius expressed his deep gratitude to Member States for their support thus far, expressing hope that they will grant the Mechanism the resources needed to carry out its mandate as efficiently and effectively as possible.