Statement by the South African Mission to the United Nations, during the Security Council Meeting on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), 08 June 2020

Mr President,

At the outset I wish to thank the President and Prosecutor for their comprehensive reports. The Mechanism is carrying out commendable work and has undertaken significant efforts to improve the functioning of the Mechanism in a number of ways. As pointed out in the President’s Report, COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the functioning of the Mechanism, especially on anticipated timelines and the consequent impact on the Mechanism’s 2021 budget proposal. In this respect, the Mechanism should be commended for the measures it has implemented in order to ensure that it remains operational and continues to work.

It also is pleasing to see that significant acknowledgement is given to the staff of the Mechanism for the exemplary work done in order to ensure that the work of the Mechanism continues seamlessly despite the COVID-19 pandemic and requirements to work remotely. The people working in the background are often overlooked and not afforded the credit they are due – in this respect South Africa wishes to express its extreme gratitude to all those who work tirelessly to ensure that the Mechanism is a success.

Despite a number of challenges, the Mechanism has done impressive work and continues to do so, both in terms of the prosecution of perpetrators, and also in terms of the residual functions. South Africa wishes to highlight in this regard the assistance provided to national jurisdictions, which is greatly beneficial.

Mr President,

South Africa wishes to congratulate France on successfully arresting Mr Félicien Kabuga.  Having been involved in efforts to arrest a fugitive, we acknowledge the noteworthy nature of France’s efforts, and the operational coordination with the Prosecution and other States that resulted in the arrest. We note that six fugitives remain at large and that the President, in his report, stated that full cooperation by States remains a challenge.

In this regard, the President reports that the Prosecution sought cooperation from South Africa in relation to the arrest and transfer of a fugitive located on its territory in mid-2018 and that South Africa did not attempt to execute requests for assistance until December 2019. In this respect, we regret that challenges presented by South Africa’s domestic law unfortunately constrained South Africa’s cooperation, however, this has since been addressed.

Furthermore, the Report provides that on 18 December 2019, the Prosecution submitted a further request for assistance to the South African authorities, and that South Africa responded on 8 May 2020, but that much of the information requested by the Prosecution was not provided. In this respect, we note that two reports were indeed submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office, the first on 19 February 2020, and the second on 8 May 2020. The Prosecutor’s Office was informed in April that the complete lockdown in South Africa in response to the COVID-19 pandemic would likely delay submission of the second report.

Mr President,

South Africa reiterates its full commitment to cooperate with the Prosecutor. Action taken by the Government had to conform to our national laws. We have always endeavoured to engage and cooperate with the Mechanism. South Africa is committed to its obligation under Article 28. We have consistently reaffirmed such obligation, and have taken positive steps to give effect to the Prosecutor’s request for assistance. We remain determined to continue all efforts, in cooperation with the Prosecution and, where possible, other relevant States, to trace and surrender fugitives from justice. That Mr Kabuga could avoid arrest for almost three decades, allegedly moving between a number of countries, reemphasises the importance of international cooperation in order to prevent suspects from escaping arrest.

In relation to the OIOS’s evaluation on the methods and work of the Mechanism from October 2019, which was presented in a report of 26 March 2020, we congratulate the Mechanism on the fulfilment of the recommendations, and we are confident that the two outstanding recommendations will be addressed swiftly.

I thank you for your attention.


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