Address of Prosecutor Serge Brammertz on the occasion of the ICTY’s 20th Anniversary
Prosecutor Serge Brammertz addressed the audience during the event held at the Tribunal on 27 May 2013 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its establishment by the United Nations Security Council whereupon he stated the following:
"Your Majesty, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Colleagues,
Much has been said today about the challenges and successes at the ICTY over the last 20 years. And yes, we have succeeded in turning the Security Council’s aspirations in Resolution 827 into a living, breathing institution that has set enduring precedents. We have succeeded – against all the odds – in bringing all of the ICTY’s indicted persons to justice. And we have succeeded in starting a powerful momentum behind the principle of international justice that will not be easily broken.
While we can be justifiably proud of the ICTY's past achievements, we should also remember that, for many, the events of 20 years ago seem like they happened yesterday. I’m thinking especially of the thousands who survived crimes committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. Over the last years I have spent many hours meeting with survivor groups and individual survivors. For them, the crimes they lived through, and the crimes that took away their loved ones, are ever present.
For the mother whose young son was taken from her arms in Srebrenica; for the prisoners abused in Čelebići camp; and for the girls in Foča who were gang raped and sold into slavery; for them and so many others, 20 years might as well be 20 days. Their pain, their suffering, their loss remains a daily reality and I hope they will be foremost in our thoughts today.
Over the past 20 years our cases have not only ensured individual accountability for crimes but they have also set down a record of events that will be an important barrier to revisionism in the years to come. We see warning signs of revisionism in the public statements of some politicians in countries of the former Yugoslavia who still, even today, glorify or deny war crimes – some going so far as to refute the existence of genocide in Srebrenica. These comments give us cause for concern and at the same time highlight the essential role of international justice.
We must also remember that some of our most important cases are ongoing. We have to remain focused on our work and we ask you, the international community, to also remain interested and engaged in our work – alongside the many other pressing international justice issues that demand attention in today’s world. One very clear lesson learned from our experience at the ICTY is that, while prosecutions alone are not enough, they are an essential pre-condition for redress and reconciliation.
It has been, and remains, a great privilege for me to serve as ICTY Prosecutor. In January 2008, I took over a fully functional office filled with staff members whose expertise and dedication to the ICTY’s mandate is extraordinary. Working together with our partners in the international community we completed the job of bringing the last fugitives to justice and, now, of finalising the last cases. These staff members deserve our recognition and I hope the international community will see what a tremendous resource they are for future international justice initiatives.
I’m pleased to have an opportunity today to thank the Netherlands for the essential support given to our work over many years. You have been a central part of the ICTY’s history. I will leave it to others to speak about the organizational help provided by the Netherlands on a daily basis. For my part, I want to highlight the important role the Netherlands has played within the European context by keeping the arrest of the fugitives high on the political agenda. The policy of making EU membership conditional on full cooperation with the ICTY shows that international justice has greater chances of prevailing when there is firm political support and positive incentives for cooperation.
To conclude, people often ask me whether I believe the ICTY has been a success. I think that’s a question that has to be answered by others at a later time, when our work is finally complete. But I can say that, in my view, to be a success, we will have to ensure an effective transition from the ICTY to national prosecutions in the former Yugoslavia for the many war crimes cases that remain. In Bosnia and Herzegovina alone, hundreds of cases involving more than 2500 alleged perpetrators must still be investigated and prosecuted. Without extra efforts at the national and international levels the cases will languish.
Together we must make sure the many thousands of victims of these crimes get the redress they deserve and that justice demands.