The President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Judge Dennis Byron, yesterday told the UN Security Council in New York that the ICTR will not be able to meet its mandate by December 2008.
Byron, who was presenting the ninth report on the completion strategy of the ICTR to the Security Council, said the Arusha-based court has speeded up its workload in order to beat its deadline, but that recently it was forced to consider its operations after the arrest of five more fugitives.
However, he said that court would wind up most of its cases by the end of 2008, with judgments expected in 2009 latest.
Byron added that the recent arrest of three high level genocide suspects meant that the ICTR would remain at work beyond 2008.
Other suspects like Felicien Kabuga, who only days before planted reports in the media that he was willing to discuss with the government of Rwanda, are still at large.
In 2003, the Security Council called on the Tribunal “to take all possible measures to complete investigations by end of 2004, to complete all trial activities at first instance by end of 2008, and to complete work by 2010.”
Since the court was established in 1997, the prosecutor has issued 92 indictments, out of which only 41 have been disposed of. Of the remaining 51, four have been earmarked for referral and 13 accused are still at large.
It was highly anticipated that the ICTR president would report Kenya’s refusal to cooperate with the court to the Security Council but he did not.
Furthermore, Byron did not clearly indicate what would happen to some cases which were referred and turned down by Norway, the Netherlands and then referred back to Arusha. The judge, however, called for the cooperation of states so that more suspects still in hiding could be arrested.
He urged “states to secure the arrest of 13 remaining fugitives as soon as possible. The speed with which this request is executed will have an impact on the work of the Tribunal’s work,” said Byron.
He added that the mandate of the court would further be determined by the outcome of the requests by the prosecution team for transfer of cases to other countries, although the court had turned down the request by prosecution to transfer Genocide suspect Yusuf Munyakazi to Rwanda, saying Rwanda was not ready to try such a case. He said it would take three to four months before the appeals chamber issues another ruling.
Byron also applauded the continued cooperation of states in the work of the tribunal.