Ladies and Gentlemen,
On this day in 1945, some 66 years ago, the Charter of the United Nations was signed and a global organisation dedicated to building a better world was born. On behalf of all Judges and staff of the ICTR, I would like to thank you all for sharing this important day with us.
United Nations Day is an annual celebration highlighting the achievements and goals of the UN. People of all backgrounds, from every part of the world are taking part in activities to mark this event today. I have always felt that working for the United Nations is a special honour, and I know that this is a common feeling among all of the staff at this Tribunal. I believe that the UN’s mission of standing up for the poorest and most vulnerable in the name of global peace and social justice brings hope to people all over the world. I want to encourage the students here to consider becoming a part of that mission by joining the UN and contributing to its work in whatever field you choose to pursue a career in.
Every year a theme is chosen for UN Day, and it is through this theme that we have an opportunity to reflect on how the Tribunal has contributed to the work of the United Nations and to look forward to what we aim to accomplish before our mandate is complete. This year’s theme is “Ways the United Nations Makes a Difference in Everyday Life”.
Our mission is to contribute to sustainable peace in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region by trying those most responsible for the Rwandan genocide. In pursuit of that mission, we have tried to make a difference in the everyday lives of Rwandans by giving victims a voice in our courtrooms and by creating a record of what occurred in Rwanda in 1994. The International Tribunals have played an important role in the progression of humanitarian law and have reinforced rule of law objectives by creating a benchmark that even those accused of the worst crimes known to mankind must be entitled to a fair trial. It is in this regard that I note with regret the loss over this past weekend of one of the pillars of international criminal justice, Judge Antonio Cassese. As the former President of both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and most recently of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Judge Cassese was a pioneer in our field, and leaves a lasting legacy as both a judge and a scholar. We honour Judge Cassese’s legacy by maintaining a high standard of justice so that the field of international criminal law continues to evolve in order to challenge impunity in an ever-changing world.
Another way that the Tribunal makes a difference in everyday life is through outreach and education. In this regard, the Tribunal has contributed to capacity building in Rwanda, provides health services for victims and witnesses, has created Information Centres throughout Rwanda, and has worked to educate the youth.
The UNICTR Clinic for Victims and Witnesses of the Rwandan Genocide has not only provided vital medical treatment for HIV/AIDS and diseases such as Tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and malaria but it also provides one of the only available sources of comfort for its patients. For these victims, the genocide may not have taken their lives, but it took away from them their dignity, their trust, and their security. With the help of the Clinic’s highly trained staff, and counselling sessions, the patients are slowly able to gain this back.
By creating Information Centres throughout Rwanda, the Tribunal has also affected the everyday lives of Rwandans by giving them the ability to view ICTR court proceedings locally, thus allowing the people most affected to witness the process by which justice is being done.
We have also worked hard to educate the youth about international justice. Representatives from the ICTR have been visiting schools around East Africa to teach about our work, and last year we gathered together to pay tribute to students from more than 70 schools who had undertaken the task of interpreting international justice in scholarly and artistic form as part of the Essay and Drawing competition on the “Role of the Tribunal in Promoting International Justice”.
Today, we present the second part of this youth education project- a cartoon book entitled “100 Days: in the Land of the Thousand Hills”. The goal of these projects is to educate the future leaders of our communities so that they can continue on a path of justice and equality. I would like to thank the German Government for their generous support as well as the United Nations Office in Nairobi for assistance with the printing of the cartoon book. You will hear more about the cartoon book from our Deputy Registrar and the Deputy Head of Mission from the German Embassy shortly.
As we near the completion of our trial work, we will focus even more on ensuring the Tribunal’s lasting legacy, so that our work can continue long after our trials are complete to deliver the message that never again can such atrocities be allowed to occur. Programs to educate the youth are a crucial part of this because they cultivate the values of peace and justice in future generations.
On what may be the final UN Day celebrated by this Tribunal, we re-affirm our commitment to the goals of the United Nations, as stated today by the Secretary General, to build a better world; to leave no one behind; and to stand for the poorest and most vulnerable in the name of global peace and social justice. Through our work, we continuously strive to make a difference in the everyday lives of people throughout the region and indeed all over the world.