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National statements

International Criminal Tribunals

Thematic issues

  • Impunity
  • Justice


Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Mr President

Thank you for this opportunity to reflect on the impact of the Yugoslav and Rwandan Tribunals, twenty years since the Council's establishment of the ICTY. We are disappointed that the Council could not agree to hold an open debate, but we would like to thank Tribunal Presidents Meron and Joensen, and Prosecutors Brammertz and Jallow for their briefings today. We would also like to thank Guatemala for its leadership of the Informal Working Group on International Tribunals.

Mr President

I would like to make a number of broader comments.

The establishment of the ICTY was a watershed moment in recognising the relationship between justice and peace. The establishment of the ICTR a year later cemented that link. The investigation and prosecution of serious international crimes cannot of course by itself bring about peace or reconciliation. But both historical experience and expert analysis establishes that, while timing can be important, without justice it is difficult – ultimately, maybe impossible – to establish inclusive and lasting reconciliation and peace.

We all know both Tribunals have faced challenges. They commenced their work in the context of an ongoing conflict in the case of the ICTY, and a fragile peace in the case of the ICTR. At the outset they had only skeletal jurisprudence to guide their work. With no enforcement powers, they were dependent on States to arrest and surrender indictees. And they had to grapple with vast amounts of evidence.

The Tribunals' achievements in the face of these challenges are truly impressive. All 161 persons indicted by the ICTY and all but nine of the 90 persons indicted by the ICTR have been accounted for. Together the Tribunals have dealt with some 1,627 charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. In doing so, they have produced rich international criminal law jurisprudence. Legal aid systems have been established; protective measures for witnesses developed; and innovations in forensic, ballistic and re-enactment evidence made. Assistance has been provided to national judiciaries dealing with serious international crimes. And at all times the Tribunals have maintained their independence and provided fair trials in accordance with international standards.

We welcome the considerable progress the Tribunals have made during the reporting period towards the completion of their mandates. But their work is not yet done. Some of the ICTY's most high profile cases are ongoing. The ICTR's trials might have been concluded, but appeals are ongoing, including under the Residual Mechanism. The ten acquitted and released persons in the care of the ICTR in Tanzania must be relocated. States must assist the Residual Mechanism track and apprehend the fugitives from the ICTR. We encourage the Tribunals to continue their efforts to implement their completion strategies, and call on all States to continue to cooperate with, and support, both Tribunals, as well as the Residual Mechanism.

As the Tribunals near the conclusion of their work, we should pay tribute to the thousands of dedicated Tribunal staff and officials, the national governments of the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the host States, the international organisations, the members of civil society and, most especially, the victims and witnesses, who have courageously stood up and said that we will not tolerate impunity for serious international crimes.

Let me quote the words of ICTY witness Mirsada Malagić, who has given evidence in relation to the killing of her husband, her three sons, other relatives and friends. At the end of her testimony in the Mladic trial she thanked the Tribunal for the opportunity provided to the victims and witnesses to, and I quote: "give at least a partial account of what really happened to us, in order to describe a situation that my family and thousands of other people found themselves, people who lost their property, their families, their children, people who were left alone, deprived of any will to continue with their lives."

Just as a democracy is not a democracy unless it protects the most vulnerable, international criminal justice is not justice unless it serves the victims.

We still have a long way to go to end impunity. But our responsibility to do so must be a continuous touchstone in the Council's work, and must guide our interaction with all international criminal justice institutions, including pre-eminently, of course, the International Criminal Court.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 5 June 2015
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