The launch of the Arusha Branch of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) was marked by a ceremony held today in Arusha, Tanzania.
Established by the Security Council of the United Nations, the Mechanism is mandated to carry out a number of essential functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) after the completion of their respective mandates.
The launch brought together international officials, government representatives of the Republic of Rwanda and Tanzania, judges and staff of the ICTR, nongovernmental organisations, victims’ representatives, and the media.
The two-hour event began with an address from Mr. Stephen Mathias, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for Legal Affairs, who spoke on behalf of the Secretary-General. Hon. Mathias Chikawe, the Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs of the United Republic of Tanzania, also remarked on the launch, followed by Mr. Martin Ngoga, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Rwanda, Judge Theodor Meron, President of the MICT and the ICTY, Mr. Hassan Bubacar Jallow, Prosecutor of the MICT and the ICTR, Judge Vagn Joensen, President of the ICTR, Mr. Pascal Besnier, Officer in Charge of the Judicial and Legal Division of the ICTR on behalf of Mr. Adama Dieng, ICTR Registrar. Mr. John Hocking, Registrar of the MICT and the ICTY, concluded the ceremony.
Addressing the audience, Judge Theodor Meron, President of the MICT and the ICTY stated that the establishment of the Mechanism marked “the renewal of the international community’s commitment to the fundamental and unwavering principle that impunity for the worst of crimes may never be allowed to reign”.
The establishment of the Mechanism is a momentous step in the Completion Strategies of both the ICTY and ICTR. The Mechanism is tasked with the continuation of essential functions of both Tribunals and the preservation of their legacy.
President Meron recalled the ground-breaking role played by the ICTY and ICTR and praised the hundreds of decisions and judgements issued by the Tribunals, which have shaped international humanitarian law.
The “two pioneering tribunals have served as important models and, together, they have laid vital legal, procedural, and institutional groundwork for the other international criminal courts and countless national judicial initiatives that have followed,” President Meron said.
Underscoring the significance of the ICTR for the Mechanism, the President said, “[t]oday, as the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals assumes responsibility for certain key functions of the ICTR, it faces some of the same challenges that the ICTR confronted in its early years, as well as new and special challenges. It is, after all, a new type of institution – a new experiment in international criminal justice… however, it benefits from the experience and institutional history of the ICTR and, in that respect, the Mechanism may anticipate a far smoother road ahead than that first faced by the ICTR.”
The functions of the Arusha Branch of the Mechanism will include: tracking and prosecution of the remaining fugitives, maintaining protective measures granted to victims and witnesses by the ICTR, hearing any appeals from judgements or sentences issued by the ICTR that fall within the Mechanism’s competence, as well as handling requests for review of judgements, as mandated by the Security Council. The Mechanism will maintain the Tribunal’s vital role in assisting national jurisdictions by granting access to evidence, providing assistance in tracking fugitives whose cases have been transferred to national authorities, and monitoring cases transferred to national jurisdictions to ensure fair and impartial adjudication. Responsibility for the preservation and management of the ICTR’s archives will also be an essential function for the Mechanism as the ICTR, working alongside the Mechanism, nears the completion of its mandate.
The Hague Branch of the MICT, which will take on functions derived from the ICTY, will launch on 1 July 2013.