Since the confirmation of the COVID-19 pandemic and its Statement on operations during COVID-19 of 19 March 2020, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (‘Mechanism’) has continued to closely follow developments in each of the countries where its branches and field offices are located, as well as the advice and guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN).
As an independent judicial institution, the Mechanism has a critical mandate from the UN Security Council and important responsibilities to accused, detained and convicted persons, as well as to victims and witnesses. The Mechanism has, therefore, remained operational and remains committed to minimizing interruptions to its activities to the greatest extent possible, while fulfilling the duties owed to those under its supervision.
At the same time, the well-being of our staff remains a top priority. Accordingly, the Mechanism continues to apply remote working arrangements to promote social distancing and enable most staff members to work from home, where possible. In addition, stringent measures have been implemented at the Mechanism’s premises to permit a partial return of staff to the office in a safe working environment.
Furthermore, the Mechanism’s courtrooms in The Hague and Arusha have been adapted to allow for the safe conduct of the hearings, allowing for in-person or remote participation of judges, counsel or the accused. In The Hague, in the Mladić case, a Status Conference was held on 24 July 2020, while the hearing of the appeals in that case took place on 25 and 26 August 2020. In the Stanišić and Simatović retrial, the presentation of evidence by the defence resumed on 1 September 2020 and concluded on 8 October 2020. In Arusha, court hearings resumed on 22 October 2020 in the Turinabo et al case.
Alongside this, the Mechanism continues to carry out its other essential obligations and functions, including: providing support and protection to witnesses; managing the UN Detention Unit in The Hague and the UN Detention Facility in Arusha; supervising the enforcement of sentences; tracking the remaining fugitives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; reporting to the United Nations Headquarters; responding to requests for assistance from national jurisdictions; and managing the archives.
Public visits to the Mechanism’s branches are suspended at least until 31 December 2020. While the general public is not able to attend the Mechanism’s hearings in person until further notice, the hearings can be followed via public broadcast on the Mechanism’s website.
During these challenging times, the Mechanism remains committed to the efficient and effective implementation of its mandate while fully adhering to public health measures and safeguarding the health and welfare of its staff.
We take this opportunity to wish you all good health and encourage you to do your part in helping to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Please stay safe.