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National statements

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the Mechanism for the International Tribunals

Thematic issues

  • Accountability
  • Impunity
  • International Criminal Tribunals
  • Justice
  • Peace and Security
  • Rule of Law


Statement by Mr Michael Bliss, Political Coordinator, Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations

I thank Presidents Meron and Joensen and Prosecutors Brammertz and Jallow for their briefings today. I also thank you, Mr President, for convening this important debate which provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the contribution to peace and security made by international criminal justice in general, and more particularly, on the work of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR), and the Residual Mechanism.

Mr President

We welcome the progress made by the three bodies in relation to their respective mandates in the last reporting period. Achievements include the successful launch of The Hague branch of the Residual Mechanism on 1 July, good progress in transferring the ICTR's archives to the Mechanism, the delivery of five judgments by the ICTY, and the signing of a Host State agreement between the UN and the Government of Tanzania for the Arusha branch of the Mechanism. We also welcome the fact that the ICTY will shortly be returned to its full complement of judges.

Mr President

As the reports before us make clear, the work of the ad hoc Tribunals is not yet done, and will clearly extend beyond 2014. Key trials and appeals remain before the ICTY. The last appeal before the ICTR is still to be finalised. Victims and witnesses require ongoing protection. Fugitives from the ICTR must be found and apprehended.

The ongoing support and cooperation of the international community is essential to the successful completion of this work.

This Council must also play its role in addressing the challenges that remain before the ICTY and ICTR. Specifically, Australia considers it necessary for the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals to give further consideration to how the Council can support the ICTR's efforts to relocate the ten acquitted and released persons currently in Tanzania, some of whom have been effectively confined to safe houses in Arusha for over ten years. In light of the impending closure of the ICTR, the time has come to elevate diplomatic and political efforts to identify a solution and we urge all Member States to enhance their cooperation with the ICTR on this critical matter. We also consider it imperative that the Council renew those mandates of ICTY judges that will shortly expire, in accordance with the request made by President Meron, to ensure that the ICTY's remaining cases can be concluded in an efficient manner.

Mr President

Much has been said about the achievements of the ad hoc Tribunals and the legacy that the Residual Mechanism has been established to preserve. It is no overstatement to say that the work of the ICTY and ICTR has been ground-breaking.

Most obviously, the Tribunals have played a major role in the development of our understanding of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. But beyond this, the Tribunals have won the cooperation of States necessary to conduct investigations, obtain evidence, and arrest and transfer indictees to Arusha and The Hague. They have developed rules of procedure and evidence, constructed legal aid systems, and found solutions for how and where their sentences could be enforced. And they have developed the means to protect victims and witnesses in order to encourage them to let their voices be heard.

The Tribunals have also shared both evidence and experience with national courts. In doing so, they have helped to foster the type of national accountability processes that are essential to truly ending impunity, and in this way have made a major contribution to strengthening the rule of law.

It is crucial that the experience of the Tribunals be shared and their legacy promoted. To this end, Australia is pleased to be supporting the ICTR's international workshop on sexual and gender-based violence to be held in Kampala in January 2014. The workshop is aimed at sharing international best practice in the investigation and prosecution of sexual violence.

Mr President

Twenty years ago, this Council breathed life into the international community's aspiration that those alleged to be responsible for serious international crimes be held to account by creating the ICTY, followed by the ICTR. The Council's power to refer situations to the International Criminal Court (ICC) underscores the fact that the Council retains a crucial role in the promotion of accountability.

As the work of the ad hoc Tribunals winds down, it is more important than ever that the Council fulfils its responsibilities in relation to ending impunity, including by providing ongoing political and diplomatic support to the ICC.

Otherwise, we will be failing to live up to the vision that the Council established twenty years ago.

Finally, we wish to recognise and thank Guatemala for its outstanding leadership of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals over the past two years.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 4 June 2015
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