UN reappoints international criminal tribunals president

04Jul 2018
The Guardian
UN reappoints international criminal tribunals president

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appointed Judge Theodor Meron to a new term as President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism, for short) with effect from Sunday (July 1) and right to January 19 next year,

when Judge Carmel Agius will take over until June 30, 2020.

According to a press release issued yesterday, the UN chief has also renewed the terms of all but one of the 24 Judges of the Mechanism who were seeking reappointment for a new two-year term to run from this July 1 to June 30, 2020.

However, Judge Meron has been quoted as having expressed “my deep regret regarding, and respectful disagreement with, the decision not to reappoint my valued and esteemed colleague, Judge Akay”.

This comes in the wake of the UN Secretary General’s reappointment of all of the Judges on the Mechanism’s roster who were seeking re-engagement except Judge Aydin Sefa Akay of Turkey.

Judge Meron further expressed “my grave concerns about the far-reaching consequences this decision will have for our institution and for international criminal justice more generally”.

Judge Akay was among the Judges originally elected to the Mechanism by the UN General Assembly in December 2011 and previously served as a Judge of the ICTR.

While serving in the Mechanism’s Appeals Chamber on the bench of the Augustin Ngirabatware case, Judge Akay was arrested in September 2016 by Turkish authorities and detained thereafter.

He was convicted in June 2017 by a Turkish criminal court of first instance in Ankara on a single charge of being a member of a terrorist organisation. Judge Akay resumed the conduct of his judicial functions for the Mechanism in June 2017 following his provisional release pending appeal.

At present, the Turkish judgment of first instance against Judge Akay is subject to an on-going appeal as well as potential review proceedings at national and international levels and the verdict has yet to acquire legal finality.

Judge Meron observed that the decision not to reappoint Judge Akay was “profoundly troubling on multiple levels”, adding: “The situation has raised serious questions as to whether the immunities to which Judges are entitled and the judicial independence that these immunities serve to protect can be effectively guaranteed for institutions such as the Mechanism, where Judges typically work in the countries of their nationality.”

From March 2001, when he was elected as a Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), President Meron (88) served on the Appeals Chambers of both the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the ICTY until the closure of the two predecessor Tribunals in December 2015 and 2017, respectively.

The Polish-born law guru also served a total of four terms as President of the ICTY and two previous terms as the Mechanism’s President.
Judge Agius has been a Judge of the Mechanism since its inception in 2012. He also served as a Judge of the Trial Chamber of the ICTY from 2001 and a Judge of the Appeals Chambers of both the ICTR and the ICTY from 2010 until the Tribunals’ closures.

Judge Agius served as Vice President of the ICTY from November 2011 until November 2015 and as President of the ICTY from November 2015 until its closure in December 2017.

The Mechanism) was established by UN Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010) to complete the remaining work of ICTR and ICTY after the completion of their respective mandates. The Mechanism has two branches – one in Arusha and the other in The Hague.

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