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ICTY marks official closure with moving Ceremony in The Hague

Tribunal | | The Hague |

Today, the official ICTY Closing Ceremony took place at the prestigious Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal) of the Dutch Parliament in The Hague. His Majesty, King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands, and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres honoured the ICTY with their presence, joining the three Principals of the ICTY, former Judges and Principals, and numerous other distinguished guests. This historic occasion gathered together the Tribunal’s significant supporters and contributors from throughout its 24-plus years, and the high-level guests created a memorable atmosphere in the beautiful Hall. Other attendees included representatives of States, international courts and tribunals, and international and regional organisations, as well as victim representatives, members of civil society and academia, and a number of ICTY staff.

To honour the memory of those who suffered the most during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the Ceremony began with a moment of silence for victims, followed by a welcoming address from ICTY President Carmel Agius, who referred to the universality of the Tribunal’s work and, on behalf of the ICTY, expressed deep gratitude to “all those who have brought us to this moment in history, as we commemorate the closing and legacy of the ICTY”. Further opening remarks were delivered by His Excellency Mr Halbe Zijlstra, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, who graciously co-hosted this significant event, and by Her Excellency Ms Pauline Krikke, Mayor of the City of The Hague.

The Keynote Address was delivered by His Excellency, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who focused on the ICTY’s rich legacy in terms of accountability for atrocity crimes. A musical interlude followed, featuring the ICTY’s own Judge Alphons Orie along with other musicians, in an excerpt from G. F. Händel’s “Solomon” related to the theme of justice. Next, ICTY Prosecutor Serge Brammertz gave the first of the addresses by distinguished speakers representing the Tribunal. He was followed by ICTY Registrar John Hocking.  Ms Marie O’Leary, Vice-President of the Association of Defence Counsel practising before the International Courts and Tribunals, then spoke on behalf of the Association. ICTY Judge Theodor Meron also delivered remarks in his capacity as President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism).

Thereafter, the Tribunal paid tribute to the victims and their experiences. Acclaimed Serbian actress Ms Mirjana Karanović narrated the stories of four different victims, reading out excerpts from their powerful testimonies before the ICTY, followed by a short video feature entitled ‘Voices of Victims’. The Ceremony ended with ICTY President Agius presenting a commemorative medallion to the President of the Mechanism with the United Nations Secretary-General as witness, thus symbolising the hand-over of the Tribunal’s legacy to the Mechanism.

The ICTY’s successful closure, after more than 24 years of operations, 10,800 trial days and 4,650 witnesses, and after bringing to justice each one of its 161 accused, is truly an immense achievement. As the first of its kind in the modern age, the Tribunal has ushered in a new era of accountability and paved the way for the delivery of justice both internationally and in the region of the former Yugoslavia. The hope of the ICTY is that its legacy will contribute to a lasting peace in the region and continue to inspire the work of other courts and tribunals and the development of international criminal law, long after its doors have closed.

The ICTY Closing Ceremony was the last in a series of legacy and closing events held over the past two years entitled ICTY Legacy Dialogues. The Tribunal will officially close on 31 December 2017.