The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (“Mechanism”) is a subsidiary body of the UN Security Council. It was established to continue the jurisdiction, rights, obligations, and essential functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (“ICTR”) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”) after the completion of their respective mandates.
As the UN Security Council discussed the completion strategies of the ICTR and ICTY, it became apparent that a number of responsibilities could not be concluded upon the closure of the ICTR and the ICTY. It was determined that a small ad hoc mechanism would allow the two Tribunals to end their activities while ensuring that essential responsibilities, such as apprehension of fugitives, protection of witnesses, supervision of detention, and provision of archival access, continued.
Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010) established the Mechanism as an institution with two branches: one to cover functions inherited from the ICTR, located in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania; and the other to cover functions inherited from the ICTY, located in The Hague, the Netherlands.
The Arusha branch began its operations on 1 July 2012. The Hague branch began its operations on 1 July 2013.
While both branches share the same mandate and leadership, each branch focuses on the particular needs of each location.
The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals was established by the UN Security Council on 22 December 2010 to carry out a number of essential functions of the ICTR and the ICTY, after the completion of their respective mandates.
The Mechanism is mandated to carry out the following Functions:
- Tracking and prosecution of remaining fugitives;
- Conduct and complete appeals proceedings deriving from the last ICTR and ICTY cases;
- Consider applications for review of ICTR, ICTY, and Mechanism judgements;
- Conduct any re-trials;
- Conduct investigations, trials, and appeals for contempt and false testimony;
- Protect victims and witnesses who testified before the ICTR, the ICTY, and the Mechanism;
- Supervise the enforcement of sentences for persons convicted by the ICTR, the ICTY, and the Mechanism;
- Assist national jurisdictions in investigating and prosecuting cases involving alleged war crimes and other violations of international law;
- Preserve and manage the ICTR, ICTY, and Mechanism archives; and
- Monitor cases referred to national jurisdictions.
The Mechanism will not issue new indictments for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.
The ICTR’s mandate was to try persons allegedly responsible for certain crimes committed in the territory of Rwanda and neighbouring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.
The ICTY was mandated to try persons allegedly responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991.
For information about the mandate of the Mechanism, see What is the mandate of the Mechanism?
In accordance with Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010), the Mechanism is a small, temporary, and efficient institution.
The Mechanism has a President, a Prosecutor, and a Registrar common to both branches. It has a roster of 25 independent Judges who are present at one of the two branches of the Mechanism only when necessary and at the request of the President. In so far as possible, and as decided by the President, the Judges will carry out their functions remotely.
Chambers, the Office of the Prosecutor, and the Registry rely on a small team of staff to perform on-going functions and maintain a roster of qualified personnel in order to rapidly recruit additional staff should they be needed in response to changes in the workload.
A Defence counsel roster is continuously updated to ensure that conditions for conducting fair trials are met.
Among the many achievements of the Mechanism to date are the following:
- Commencement of operations in Arusha and The Hague within the parameters and timeframe set by the UN Security Council and the seamless transition of key ICTR and ICTY functions to the Mechanism;
- Assumption of responsibility for conducting and completing appeals proceedings for which the notice of appeal was filed after the start of the relevant branch of the Mechanism;
- Delivery, on 18 December 2014, of the Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism’s first appeal judgement, issued in the Ngirabatware case;
- Smooth transition of victims and witnesses’ protection functions to the Mechanism, with the creation of a new Witness Support and Protection Unit (“WISP”);
- Creation of the Mechanism Archives and Records Section (“MARS”) to ensure the preservation, accessibility, and security of the archives of both the ICTR and the ICTY. The records from the ICTR have now all been transferred into the custody of the Mechanism. The ICTY has transferred a large number of records and the process is ongoing;
- Assumption of responsibility for the supervision of ICTR, ICTY, and Mechanism sentences across two continents and in numerous states;
- Establishment of common policies and procedures to address national jurisdictions’ requests for assistance;
- Completion of the new premises to house the Arusha branch of the Mechanism.
The archives of the ICTR, the ICTY, and the Mechanism include written documentation, films, audio and video recordings, and artefacts pertaining to investigations, indictments and court proceedings, detention of accused persons, protection of witnesses, enforcement of sentences, and the Tribunals’ relationships with States, other law enforcement authorities, international and non-governmental organizations, and the general public.
The archives are the property of the United Nations and are being safeguarded by the Mechanism’s implementation of an information security and access regime based on the highest international archiving standards. Read more on the Archives.