International Criminal Tribunal: no one is above the law [fr]
Debate on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former-Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) - Speech by Mrs. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Coucnil - 6 November 2017
- The International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued its last judgement on 29 November 2017.
- Credits: ICTY
I would like to thank Presidents Agius and Meron and Prosecutor Brammertz for their comprehensive briefings. I also welcome the presence here today of the President of the Republic of Croatia and the Minister of Justice of Serbia.
At the time when, through its adoption on 25 May 1993 of resolution 827 (1993), the Security Council created the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the region was still ravaged by massacres and ethnic cleansing that amounted to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The civilian population was displaced and hundreds of thousands of lives were destroyed in violation of the most basic principles of international law and international humanitarian law.
On 31 December this year, 24 years later, the ICTY will close its doors after judging a total of 161 indicted individuals, showing that it is possible to bring the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes to justice and hold them accountable for their actions, regardless of their political function or rank. It has proved that today we can prosecute the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and that no one is above the law. Today the region is at peace. Slovenia and Croatia are now members of the European Union, while the other Western Balkan countries, as candidates for membership or in the process of rapprochement with the European Union, are on their way to stabilization.
The ICTY played a major role in that evolution by rigorously establishing the facts, assigning clear responsibility for the most serious crimes and enabling the victims to be heard through their painful and courageous testimony to the crimes that they suffered. It has undeniably rendered them justice. It leaves a fundamental legacy that concerns the international community as a whole.
We do not deny that the Tribunal has had its difficulties. It has faced numerous challenges that have forced it to learn from its mistakes, but its successes are indisputable. It has been a pioneer in several respects.
Through its impressive judicial work, along with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), it has contributed to the development of an entirely new branch of law — international criminal law. It has also contributed to the establishment of the International Criminal Court. For those reasons, we welcome the Secretary-General’s intention to participate in the commemoration to be held in The Hague at the end of December. My delegation believes that the Security Council should commend the work accomplished by the Tribunal.
The Security Council created the ICTY because it was believed that it was vital to restore the rule of law to a region that had been the victim of an especially deadly conflict and to enable the judiciary to fully and independently exercise its functions and establish accountability for the crimes committed there without the possibility of denial. But however crucial it is to ensure that the people suspected of committing crimes as serious as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes are held accountable in a fair trial, we must also remember that on their own, a court’s judgments and rulings cannot heal the profound wounds inflicted by crimes of this nature. Judicial decisions alone cannot lead to reconciliation. It is up to political officials, members of the worst affected communities, civil society, religious leaders, parents, teachers and victims’ representatives to find the strength and the means to rebuild their communities without giving in to revisionist temptations.
The ICTY has accomplished the task it was assigned and it is now up to each of the States concerned to preserve the work achieved by the international justice system, by accepting its decisions and working unceasingly to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes under their jurisdiction. Those are the conditions for true national and regional reconciliation, and that is our duty to their memory. With the closing of the ICTY two years after the closing of the ICTR, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals is fully responsible for implementing the residual activities of those two institutions. Its work continues to be extremely important. Several cases, at first instance and on appeal, are currently pending before the Mechanism, and France reiterates that all States have the responsibility to cooperate fully with it in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions. In particular, we urge all States to make every effort to ensure the arrest of the eight fugitives indicted before the Rwanda Tribunal.
In conclusion, on behalf of my Government, I would like to pay a sincere tribute to President Agius, who has just spoken for the last time before the Council as President of the ICTY with eloquence, wisdom and justifiable pride. I thank him sincerely for his commitment, professionalism and perseverance in providing high-quality, impartial service to international criminal justice. Through him, France would like to pay tribute to all the judges and prosecutors and their teams, the translators and interpreters, and the lawyers and associations that have been involved in the success of the Tribunal over the past 24 years. They are an example to us all in their commitment to continuing to advance along the path of justice and peace, one to which the peoples of Syria and Myanmar, including Sudan, Libya and all the peoples of the world aspire.