Theodor Meron discusses accomplishments and future of international tribunals
On October 6, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice welcomed Judge Theodor Meron, Charles L. Denison Professor of Law Emeritus and Judicial Fellow, for a lecture, “From the ICTY/ICTR to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals: The Next Stage of Ensuring Justice.”
Meron, who has served since 2001 as a judge on the Appeals Chamber for both the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and was also president of the ICTY, gave a history of the tribunals and analyzed the sources of their legitimacy.
The tribunals have handed down some “truly seminal judgments,” Meron said, including the ICTY’s conviction of Radislav Krstić, a Serbian major general involved in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, which established for first time that genocide can be confined to a geographically limited area. He also highlighted the ICTR prosecution of Jean-Paul Akayesu, a pioneering case establishing that sexual violence can sometimes be regarded as genocide. Other tribunal jurisprudence, Meron said, had illuminated the nature of armed conflict under humanitarian law, the meaning of crimes against humanity, and areas of the law concerning individual criminal responsibility and circumstantial evidence.
“These substantive contributions of the tribunal to international criminal and humanitarian law have been accompanied by less heralded but just as important elucidations of the code of procedural humanitarian or criminal law,” he said. “We have made tremendous efforts to streamline our rules of procedure in order to improve the pace of trials while keeping intact procedural guarantees of due process and fairness.”
The U.N. Security Council, which oversees the tribunals, has given them until the end of 2014 to complete their pending trials and appeals. They are “more or less on target,” Meron said, except for a handful of cases that will go to the Appeals Chamber of a new body, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, intended to tie up the loose ends of both judicial bodies.
“I remain optimistic about the future of international criminal justice,” said Meron, “not only because of the past achievements of the ICTY and ICTR, and the new emerging growth of the International Criminal Court, but because of the growing commitment of the international community to principles of justice, due process, and ending impunity.”
Posted on October 13, 2011