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President Meron’s address before the United Nations General Assembly
|ICTY President, Judge Theodor Meron
President Theodor Meron today presented the Tribunal’s nineteenth annual report to the UN General Assembly. In his first address to the General Assembly since becoming President in November 2011, President Meron reported on steps taken to implement the Tribunal’s Completion Strategy and thanked Member States for their substantial support over the years.
Presenting the Member States with an update on the tremendous progress made in judicial proceedings, the President explained that “[w]ithin the next 12 months, it is anticipated that all trials, other than those of late-arrested accused, will be completed and the bulk of the Tribunal’s work will be on appeals.” According to the President, most appeals cases will be completed by December 2014.
The President nonetheless noted the various challenges the Tribunal faces in expeditiously completing its work, stressing that “predicting the length of proceedings at the Tribunal is an art – and not a science.” The President highlighted a variety of factors adversely impacting the completion of the Tribunal’s work, including the inherent complexity of international proceedings and the loss of experienced staff. President Meron assured Member States of the Tribunal’s steadfast commitment to expeditiously completing its work while according full respect to the due process rights of the accused and due regard to the protection of victims and witnesses.
The President then turned to the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Tribunal’s establishment which will be marked in May 2013, and took the opportunity to reflect on the Tribunal’s achievements. Referring to the Tribunal’s “success story”, President Meron underscored the Tribunal’s profound impact on the landscape of international criminal justice:
“Over the course of the nearly two decades of its existence, the Tribunal has established the feasibility and enforceability of international criminal justice, blazed the trail for a host of new international courts and tribunals, and pioneered the framework of what is effectively a new world order—a world order in which all alleged perpetrators of gross violations of human rights in times of armed conflict may be held responsible for their actions, and a world order in which the questions is not if but when and where they will be called to account.”
In describing the Tribunal’s most groundbreaking accomplishments, the President emphasised the Tribunal’s impact on the development of international humanitarian law, especially with respect to crimes of sexual violence. He also spoke of the Tribunal’s leadership in finding that State immunity was not a bar to the prosecution of top leaders for international crimes. President Meron underscored the Tribunal’s contribution to international criminal procedural and evidentiary law, observing that the body of procedural law created by the Tribunal “provides not just for expeditious trials but for trials that are consistent with the highest international standards of due process and accord due respect for the human dignity of the accused.”
President Meron also stressed the impact the Tribunal has had on the development of legal systems in countries of the former Yugoslavia and its contributions to the capacity of these countries to take ownership of war crimes cases.
In closing, the President affirmed that the Tribunal’s success is the success of the Member States as well. He thanked them for their abiding faith in the Tribunal’s work: “Without the substantial support that Member States have long afforded the Tribunal, none of what we have accomplished would have been possible.”
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
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