Prosecutor Serge Brammertz of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) today addressed the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
The Prosecutor began his address by updating the UNSC on the work of the MICT Office of the Prosecutor (OTP). The OTP continued its work on the Stanišić and Simatović trial and the appeals in the Karadžić and Šešelj cases. Regarding the search for the remaining eight fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the OTP is pursuing a number of new leads, while also reviewing and following-up leads that had been generated in the past but not processed.
Prosecutor Brammertz then turned to the upcoming closure of the ICTY at the end of the month. He noted that the OTP has endeavored for twenty-four years to fulfill the mandate entrusted to it by the UNSC. He reported, “Thanks to this Council, so many victims and survivors received some measure of justice for the immense wrongs they suffered.” He further said, “We believe our results are credible. And we hope that the Security Council will judge our efforts as important contributions to the maintenance of international peace and security.”
The Prosecutor explained that the OTP had submitted a comprehensive final report detailing successes, lessons learned and areas where results did not meet the victims’ expectations. He pointed to the essential support provided by the UNSC and international community, saying, “Our results show that if there is a clear political agenda in favor of accountability, and if the international community speaks with one voice, those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law can be held accountable for their crimes.”
Prosecutor Brammertz then frankly addressed the absence of true reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia today, noting that “convicted war criminal continue to be seen by many as heroes, while victims and survivors are ignored and dismissed.” The reason, he said, is that “there is still no true will within the region to accept the immense wrongdoings of the past and move forward, sadly most of all among the political leadership.” As the Prosecutor reported to the Security Council, “Unfortunately, too many listen to war criminals who hide behind claims of collective responsibility.”
The Prosecutor rejected these false claims, underlining that “the crimes were not committed by nations or peoples, but by individuals, and most of all by senior political and military leaders.” He said, “So let me be crystal clear on this point again: no community bears responsibility for what these men did. The guilt is theirs, and theirs alone.” That is why, he argued, justice can relieve a society from the weight of collective responsibility, and why justice is an essential condition for reconciliation.
Looking to the future, Prosecutor Brammertz underscored, “It is clear that much more remains to be done. Many victims, from all communities, are still waiting for justice.” He encouraged partners of the countries of the former Yugoslavia to assist them to reach a shared agreement on the recent past. He urged continued support to national war crimes justice, saying, “For our national colleagues to succeed, they will need the same support that my Office always received from this Council, the United Nations and its Member States.”
Prosecutor Brammertz concluded by noting it had been a privilege to serve as Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY, and thanking the UNSC for providing “the support needed to secure the arrests of all fugitives and bring the Tribunal’s final cases to a successful conclusion.” He expressed his commitment as Chief Prosecutor of the MICT to assisting the countries of the former Yugoslavia to move forward, and to supporting national prosecutors who now have the primary responsibility for bringing more war criminals to justice.