[JURIST] Officials from the UN Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia addressed [press release; video] the UN Security Council Thursday to discuss the work that has been achieved as the tribunals mark 20 years of existence in 2014 and begin the process of closing by the end of the year. The officials noted the criminal tribunals started as “bold experiments” in international justice, but they have been a critical measure to ensure accountability and an adequate means of prosecution for the crimes against humanity committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The officials briefed the 15 members of the Security Council regarding outstanding fugitives of justice and the need to maintain cooperation in the fight to maintain international peace and security. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] was established after the 1994 genocide where 800,000 were killed over 100 days, and the tribunal marked 20 years of existence in April 2014. The ICTR president, Judge Vagn Joensen, delivered a speech [text] to the Security Council, which discussed the progress of the tribunal and the role the ICTR has served in establishing justice and reform in Rwanda. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] will mark 20 years in existence this November. The president of the ICTY, Judge Theodor Meron, delivered a speech [text, PDF] praising the commitment of the tribunal and urging continued support from the member states to bring the nine remaining cases before the ICTY to a close. The UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) [official website] was established by the UN Security Council on December 22, 2010, to carry out a number of essential functions of the ICTR and the ICTY after the completion of their respective mandates.
As the ICTR and ICTY mark their 20-year anniversaries, prosecution continues in both tribunals, and international organizations have looked to history to evaluate what could have been done to prevent the crimes against humanity and the lessons learned from the work of the Tribunals. Last month former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic began his defense before the ICTY with the testimony of a former Serb army officer who claimed that he was never ordered to shoot civilians during the the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, after the ICTY upheld genocide charges [JURIST reports] against him in April. Also in May the Court of Appeal of Quebec upheld [JURIST report] the conviction of Rwandan Hutu Desire Munyaneza for war crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In April JURIST Guest Columnist Fred K. Nkusi of the Independent Institute of Lay Adventists of Kigali and Mount Kenya University in Rwanda [official websites] argued [JURIST op-ed] that the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide is a period of mourning for those lost as well as remembrance of the international community’s failure to comply with its international obligations. Earlier in March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] issued a briefing paper [JURIST report] which declared significant progress has transpired in national and international courts to bring to justice those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.