Staffing crisis hindering efforts to complete work of UN criminal tribunals

11 November 2011

The United Nations tribunals tasked with ending impunity for genocide and war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda have made great progress in the last year towards completing their work, but need help in retaining experienced staff, the presidents of the courts told the General Assembly today.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has concluded proceedings against 126 of the 161 persons indicted by the court, Judge Patrick Robinson said as he presented the annual report of the tribunal, which is based in The Hague.

In addition, the arrest earlier this year of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadžic is a “milestone” that brings the tribunal closer to the successful completion of its mandate,” he added. “With the trial of the last two fugitives, all persons indicted by the prosecutor will face the judicial process, and the tribunal will be removing yet another brick in the wall of impunity.”

The tribunal is taking all measures possible to expedite its trials, but as it nears the end of its mandate, highly qualified and essential staff continue to leave at “alarming” rates for more secure employment elsewhere, Judge Robinson noted in his address to the Assembly.

“The loss of the tribunal’s experienced staff has significantly impacted proceedings, placed an onerous burden on the tribunal’s remaining staff, and will place a much heavier financial burden on the international community in the long run,” he stated.

To address this issue, the tribunal is seeking support for a retention incentive for its long-serving staff members, he said, noting that providing a direct incentive to stay until the actual abolition date of their posts has proven highly effective in other downsizing organizations.

Also, with the tribunal reaching the end of its work, it is likely that the rate of staff attrition will accelerate if effective action is not taken, warned the President. To enable it to quickly replace critical staff, the tribunal is requesting a waiver from the regulations that stipulate that interns have to wait six months after the completion of their internships before they can apply for professional posts.

Staff retention is also a “significant” challenge for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Judge Khalida Rachid Khan told the Assembly as she presented the court’s report.

“Many experienced staff members have left for more permanent jobs at other institutions,” she said. “These departures constitute an important loss of experience and institutional memory…

“Although these are problems inherent in any closing institution, there are ways to combat the extreme staff attrition occurring at the ICTR,” she stated.

Judge Khan noted that the tribunal, which is based in the Tanzanian city of Arusha, accomplished a great deal in the last year and its work is almost complete.

“However, our work is not yet finished and the assistance of the international community is required to ensure that there is no impunity gap,” she stressed.

The tribunal’s trial work is due to be finished by the end of the second quarter of 2012 and appeals work is to be finished by early 2014, she said. Critical to the tribunal’s work is the cooperation of States in apprehending the nine remaining fugitives, including three of the most high-ranking accused – Félicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya and Augustin Bizimana.

“We call upon all States, especially the States of the Great Lakes region, and in particular Kenya, to intensify their cooperation with the tribunal and to render all necessary assistance so that the remaining fugitives can be arrested,” said the President.

“These fugitives, who are accused of the most terrible crimes, must be arrested to send a strong message to the world that evading justice in not an option.”

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