The President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism), Judge Theodor Meron visited Tanzania this week and thanked the Government of Tanzania for its constant and loyal support to International Criminal tribunals.
“I express my gratitude to the Government of Tanzania for its loyal support to International Criminal Tribunals, without the support of the Government of Tanzania, we would not be where we are now”, President Meron said while addressing the press at the UN Conference Hall in Dar es Salaam. In particular, President Meron expressed gratitude for the plot of land given to the tribunal in Laki Laki area in the outskirts of Arusha, Northern Tanzania. “We were able to construct the new modest courtroom that we have, the new modest premises that we have which in addition to housing the courtroom and the archives which are so very important, has a very good library on International Criminal law.”
During his visit to Dar es Salaam, President Meron met with Dr. Damas Ndumbaro, Tanzanian's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, and with foreign diplomats to discuss matters related to the work of the tribunal.
The Establishment of the Mechanism and meeting with Government
Upon the completion of the bulk of their work, the United Nations established the Mechanism, which took over the remaining work of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia which was formed in 1993 and the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which was established in 1994. President Meron has since the Mechanism’s inception in 2012 served as its President. During his visit to Dar es Salaam, President Meron met with Dr. Damas Ndumbaro, Tanzanian's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, and with foreign diplomats to discuss matters related to the work of the tribunal.
The long serving judge invited scholars, students and practitioners in Tanzania to use the facilities of the Residual Mechanism Tribunal in Arusha which have established archives and the best library on criminal law in Tanzania. “We are all partners and we are inviting you to use our facilities or premises as often as you wish”. He said the archives were open to people from Rwanda, Tanzania and other countries. “We are doing our best in a way to provide maximum support to the people. It is my expectationthat students of History, Philosophy, students of morality, and ethics, in the future will come often to look at the archives and see what men’s brutality to men can cause if we do not respect the principle of accountability and if we do not fight hard enough against impunity.” Judge Meron also informed that the Mechanism also issues several hundreds of orders in response to National governments and national prosecutors requests.
The International community response
According to the President, the International community is happy with the work of the tribunal, “When I gave my final address to the UN Security Council, on the 11 of December (2018) or so, we realised that the International Community is quite pleased with the way we in the Mechanism have performed our work, our efficiency and the speed of our work.” President Meron also said at one point that, “in most cases states have cooperated with our jurisdiction and made it possible to diminish trends which would have led to impunity and to continue fighting for the critical values and accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide.” In his response to a Chinese Network journalist, he specifically thanked the Government of China for supporting the tribunal.
President Meron praised the tribunals staff including his fellow judges, Tanzanian Judge William Sekule and all staff in Arusha for the success claimed by the tribunal. He also affirmed that the new model which heavily relies on modern technology and electronics has proved to be efficient and economic, “Judges are not all residents of Arusha or the Hague. Basically, unless called to the seat of the tribunal, they work remotely from their habitual place of residence, the judges rely on technology.”
The UN Resident Coordinator in Tanzania, Álvaro Rodríguez, and Senior UN officials including a lead judge who is also working at the Mechanism, Judge William Sekule from Tanzania accompanied Judge Meron during the press conference Judge Sekule worked for both International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the ICTR. He was also former Director of Public Prosecution in Tanzania and a High Court Judge in Tanzania. Judge Sekule said during the life of the tribunals, a panel of judges sat in one place but now he says, “It is amazing we have been able over the years now to do a lot of commendable work-we really pay tribute to the availability of the system, internet and able legal officers at the Arusha branch or The Hague branch.”
On his part, The UN Resident Coordinator, Alvaro said, it was an opportunity to introduce the work of the UN to the people of the world. “In Tanzania we have many offices in particular, the work of the tribunal has created new jurisprudence on the horrible topic of genocide.” Alvaro further thanked the media partnership in Tanzania for communicating the work of the UN.
President Meron responded to questions from the press indicating that some of the challenges faced by the tribunal are not specific to any region but universal and global. He said, when the UN decided to establish the Mechanism, it was a clear indication of the need to continue fighting for accountability and impunity. In that context, the Security Council gave the tribunal various residual roles and judicial ad hoc roles.
Search for fugitives continues
In his response to journalists gathered and enquiring about the status of the remaining fugitives, President Meron said, “Three of those fugitives because of their seniority must be tried according to the guidelines previously formulated by the UN Security Council and must be tried in Arusha by the Mechanism.” The other five cases have been referred to Kigali, Rwanda for trial. “Those people have not been arrested, they are hiding from justice and I would regard it as something terribly negative if we would not succeed in apprehending people who have done or are accused to have done atrocity crimes”, he said.
According to the records of the tribunal, in the ICTY a 100 % record of enforcement has happened where all the 161 persons indicted at ICTY have been accounted for. President Meron says, “As regards both Tribunals,the achievements have been spectacular especially in fleshing out and developing the law of genocide. The work must continue”. With regards to the work left over by ICTR, President Meron said, “I would regard as absolutely essential that we reach the same results, the same record of 100 percent success in apprehending people who are alleged to have committed crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of rape, and bringing them to justice.”Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Information Centre Dar es Salaam.
By Stella Vuzo, Information Officer, UNIC Dar es Salaam