UNSC debate on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

  • Peace, Rights and Security

Thank you Mr President.

I’d like to thank the presidents and prosecutors for the clarity and specificity of their briefings. They have reminded us of the significance practical issues that need to be addressed as the Rwanda and Yugoslavia Tribunals wind up their work. They need our continuing support as they go through this important period.

With the Rwanda Tribunal closing this month, and the Yugoslavia Tribunal expected to close in the foreseeable future, it is timely for us to take a step back and reflect on the value and significance of their work.

New Zealand has a very strong sense of identification with both Tribunals.

As a Council Member in 1993, New Zealand was an early and strong advocate for the establishment of the Yugoslavia Tribunal.

In 1994, New Zealand played a leading role in pushing the Council to respond to the unfolding genocide in Rwanda. Later that year we took the initiative in the Council to prepare the draft Statute and lead the negotiations on the text.

When we look back at what those Tribunals have achieved, we are all the more convinced that the Council made the right decision in establishing these bodies. 

We should be proud of what was created.

We should warmly thank the Judges, Tribunal staff and UN personnel who have worked tirelessly to deliver justice and provide some measure of closure to victims, and above all to send a clear message that there can be no impunity for perpetrators of atrocities, even at the highest levels.

New Zealand also congratulates all those countries that have cooperated with the Tribunals to help bring accused persons to trial, and those countries that provided other forms of practical assistance to the Tribunals, not least the Netherlands and Tanzania.

Unfortunately the Security Council itself has been a less supportive parent to the Tribunals than it should have been. And it has failed to support the International Criminal Court with regard to cases that it has referred to the Court.

We also believe it is necessary to speak out against an unfortunate trend that has developed in the Council in recent years. A budget driven mentality seems to have distorted the conversation about the role and performance of the Tribunals.

While justice must be delivered efficiently and expeditiously, judicial machinery is inherently expensive. Judicial processes are slow. We know this only too well from our domestic experiences. We all knew this would be the case in 1993 and 1994.

We also knew that teething problems and initial inefficiencies were likely. They always are when you create something new.

We accept that there have been administrative and other problems that might have been avoided. The Tribunals have not been perfect.

But we reject any suggestion that this should lead to the conclusion that the Tribunals have failed.

We also take issue with any assertion that the experience of these two tribunals means that future efforts to establish ad hoc tribunals must rely solely on voluntary contributions. Begging bowl justice is unseemly and unsustainable over time. The experience of the Lebanon, Sierra Leone and Cambodia Tribunals has highlighted the many challenges that a wholly voluntary funding model presents.

It is true we now have a standing judicial body in the International Criminal Court. That is an important and positive part of the way forward.

But we are nonetheless seeing an ongoing demand for ad hoc judicial solutions, in order to meet local characteristics or requirements related to specific peace processes. The Special Criminal Court established in the Central African Republic is a current example of this, which complements the ICC and responds to the need for wider national accountability.

New Zealand wants to put firmly on record our view that a reliance on voluntary funding alone is not adequate for such bodies.

Mr President,

We need to have a serious conversation about how to practically, sustainably and cost effectively ensure accountability for serious international crimes.  In these conversations we need to face up to the reality that real justice has real costs. It always has.

Part of this conversation also needs to be about how this Council can do much better in ensuring practical support to the machinery for international justice and thus assist it in expediting its work. 

Looking forward, we reiterate our support for the Residual Mechanism.  It has an important role to play as the Rwanda and Yugoslavia Tribunals complete their work. 

The Mechanism’s first review is under way.  There is, of course, still room for improvement, including drawing on lessons learnt from the Tribunals. But overall, we believe the Mechanism should be commended for its work to date.  It is implementing many of the lessons learnt from the Tribunals.  
We would encourage the Mechanism to work collaboratively with Rwanda on legacy issues, including with regard to the final location of the Rwanda Tribunal archives and original documentation and evidence.

Mr President,

This Council also needs to continue to support the Yugoslavia Tribunal to the end of its mandate. As we’ve been reminded today, some of the judgements yet to be handed down are among the most important that the Yugoslavia Tribunal will deliver. We need to ensure that the Tribunal has the resources needed to complete this important work. Negotiations on a resolution to extend the judges’ terms will begin shortly.  Member State cooperation in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions continues to be vital to the success and timely completion of the work of all tribunals.

Lastly Mr President, let me thank Ambassador Cristián Barros of Chile for his work in chairing the informal working group on tribunals.

Thank you.


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