UN Security Council: Open Debate: Former Yugoslavia

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 8 December 2016.

New Zealand remains a strong supporter of the work of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. As someone who worked on the Security Council resolutions that established the ICTY and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), I feel a special sense of connection with the work of the Tribunals. Back then, none of us expected that we would still be sitting in the Security Council 23 years later considering the Tribunals’ completion strategies. New Zealand agrees that this has taken far too long.

We must all take our share of the responsibility for this situation. It is true that the Tribunals could have done more to expedite their work, but it is also clear that political factors have also played a major role in this delay. Governments have not always provided the level of cooperation required and the Council has not been as effective or active in supporting progress as we believe it should have been.

As the ICTY enters its final year, New Zealand agrees that its exclusive focus should remain on completing its work by the end of 2017. Both the Presidents’ reports and Prosecutor’s reports highlight the challenges to be faced in meeting this deadline, but it must be met. The Council and the United Nations must support the ICTY in achieving this. In this regard, we support the adoption of an incentives package for staff members to encourage them to remain with the ICTY until the end of their contracts. That is sensible business planning and we commend the Tribunal for its perseverance on this issue.

The cooperation of all relevant States with the ITCY remains essential to its completion strategy. It is axiomatic that all States are required to cooperate with the Tribunals in order to ensure justice is delivered. That obligation applies particularly to the States of the region. These requirements are set under international law and should not be subject to domestic law constraints. In that connection, we urge Serbia to lend its full support to the ICTY’s work. While we understand that it is important to respect the different competencies of the judiciary and the executive, the national obligation to cooperate remains and cannot be ducked by suggesting the issue is for someone else to address.

We have taken note of the deficiencies identified by the evaluation report (S/2016/441) of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), but at this stage in the Tribunal’s life cycle, we believe the focus must be on the practical and the achievable. It makes little sense to divert precious resources from core completion work. We therefore welcome the practical alternative suggestions provided by the Tribunal. We are pleased to see the Mechanism’s continued commitment to maximizing effectiveness and efficiencies and we commend the flexibility it has shown during the transition phase with the ICTY, including through the One Office approach and dual hatting of some staff.

New Zealand raised the important ICTR legacy issue of access to archives issue during the Council’s last debate in June (see S/PV.7707). We understand and support the desire of the Rwandan Government to have the originals of the archives located in Rwanda. This desire is not peculiar to Rwanda. Any of us in a similar situation would want documents critical to our national history to be located in our own territory. We recognize there are practical and process issues to be worked through, and hope these can be resolved. This is an important issue of principle.

The Mechanism’s report also highlights the increasingly urgent need for a comprehensive solution to the issue of relocation. We reiterate our call to the Mechanism to develop a process for risk-based assessments for relocation of those acquitted and for released persons remaining in the Arusha safe house.

As New Zealand prepares to complete its current term on the Council, I wish to offer some concluding thoughts on how the Council makes use of its relationships with relevant international legal institutions in discharging its mandate. These organs all have their own areas of primary competence, but they all operate at the intersection of international law and peace and security. Overall, it is hard to escape the impression that Council members appear less aware of the legal and judicial contexts which could support their work than they were when New Zealand last served on the Council two decades ago. Politics now seems to dominate completely and it is hard to argue that this has made the Council more effective. The question I want to leave with Council members is: how can we do better?

At the macro level, the members of the Council need to accord greater respect to the mechanisms it establishes for the administration of justice. While the Council may be a political body, the judicial mechanisms it establishes must manifest independence, transparency and freedom from politics — the hallmarks of justice in any credible legal system. At the more immediate level, New Zealand encourages the Council and its Informal Working Group on International Tribunals to be active in monitoring the issues we have raised in our statement, including the Mechanism’s progress on the ICTR archives and the relocation of released or acquitted persons.


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