Prosecutor Serge Brammertz of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism) today addressed the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
He began by informing the Security Council that the OTP has now accounted for two of the three major fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Prosecutor Brammertz briefed the Security Council on the recent arrest of Félicien Kabuga, who had been a fugitive from justice for nearly twenty-three years. Kabuga is alleged to have been a leading figure in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Prosecutor Brammertz detailed how a pro-active, analysis-driven investigation over the last few years, combined with exceptional cooperation with French authorities, led to a successful arrest operation in France on the morning of 16 May 2020.
The Prosecutor further informed the Security Council that the OTP had confirmed, through DNA analysis, the death of Augustin Bizimana, former Minister of Defense in the Interim Government and another major fugitive alleged to have been a leader in the 1994 genocide.
Prosecutor Brammertz noted, “These successes were the results of our collective efforts.” The Prosecutor recognized the victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, noting that their demand for justice, trust and support made the OTP’s work possible. He further highlighted the decisive role played by the Security Council, and that many UN Member States provided particularly important assistance. Reflecting on the many important contributions by the OTP’s partners, Prosecutor Brammertz said, “Together, we demonstrated again the impressive results that can be achieved through international cooperation.”The Prosecutor then briefed the Security Council on the status of the search for the remaining fugitives. Prosecutor Brammertz affirmed the OTP’s commitment to seize the momentum and “send a clear message that all ICTR fugitives will be accounted for”. Noting the calls by the Security Council and African Union for all Member States to cooperate with the OTP to arrest the remaining fugitives, the Prosecutor emphasized, “The victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda deserve nothing less than our collective best efforts.” The Prosecutor assured the Security Council of the OTP’s firm focus on locating the remaining fugitives, including Protais Mpiranya, and concluded that cooperation with the OTP is “not only a legal requirement, but even more, a moral obligation to the victims and survivors.”
Turning to the limited number of trials and appeals under the Mechanism’s jurisdiction, Prosecutor Brammertz noted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on proceedings in Turinabo et al., Stanišić and Simatović and Mladić. Despite the suspension of courtroom proceedings, the OTP continued to fully litigate all cases outside the courtroom and continued to perform its other mandated functions, effectively ensuring business continuity despite significant challenges.
Prosecutor Brammertz again informed the Security Council about the continued glorification of war criminals and denial of crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Regarding Rwanda, the Prosecutor said, “There are still concerted efforts to deny the Rwandan genocide.” Regarding the former Yugoslavia, the Prosecutor reported that the denial of crimes and glorification of convicted war criminals are pervasive, and regrettably “denial and glorification are often driven or supported by politicians and public officials throughout the region.” With this year marking the twenty-fifth anniversaries of many notable events from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, including the Srebrenica genocide, the Prosecutor called on all officials and public figures to act responsibly and put the victims and civilian suffering at the forefront of all commemorations. He concluded that after twenty-five years, “a break with the rhetoric of the past is long overdue, and leadership in favour of reconciliation and peace-building is urgently needed.”
Prosecutor Brammertz concluded his briefing by expressing the OTP’s gratitude to the Security Council for its continued support.