ICTR not ethnically biased, says prosecutor

ARUSHA - The Prosecutor General of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has dismissed allegations that the Tanzania-based court is targeting a particular ethnic group in Rwanda in its responsibility to try Genocide suspects.
Hassan Jallow. (File photo).
Hassan Jallow. (File photo).

ARUSHA - The Prosecutor General of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has dismissed allegations that the Tanzania-based court is targeting a particular ethnic group in Rwanda in its responsibility to try Genocide suspects.

Hassan Jallow was responding to a question from a journalist that the court was only tracking down Hutu fugitives during a media briefing at the UN tribunal’s headquarters in the Tanzanian northern town of Arusha.

And the Rwandan Representative to ICTR, Aloys Mutabingwa, said that the allegations were being made by the same fugitives wanted for participating in the killings that claimed the lives of at least one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

“They are trying to give justice the image of ethnicity and had used the media as a vehicle to commit atrocities. They are just trying to mislead people,” said Mutabingwa.

He observed that the forces behind the 1994 Genocide are still at play and that that was the main reason why some individuals are defining ICTR trials along ethnic lines.

Rwandan authorities this week arrested four military officers for alleged command responsibility in the murder of some clergymen by their subordinates in Kabgayi who had just found their families slaughtered by militias.

Jallow said his office had worked with Rwandan prosecution in investigating the case, adding that ICTR officials would closely supervise the men’s trial in Rwanda.

He said the new chief of prosecutions at the ICTR, William Egbe (from Cameroon), will closely observe the trial of the officers.

He added that the Kabgyayi incident was the only case that his office was following with regard to crimes allegedly committed by some members of Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), a force which stopped the Genocide.

Meanwhile, Jallow said that the tribunal had established a joint task force between the Government of Kenya to track top Genocide suspect Félicien Kabuga.

“However, there’s a lot more that can be done and that needs to be done,” Jallow said when asked for a comment on Kenya’s lukewarm cooperation with the court to bring the suspected Genocide financier to book.

Jallow also said that his office had already appealed against an ICTR trial chamber decision to block the transfer to Rwanda of the case of Yusuf Munyakazi, and that they would lodge a similar appeal in the case of another suspect, Gaspard Kanyarukiga, whose transfer was also denied by a trial chamber last week.

He also expressed fears that the court might fail to complete its backlog by the time of its deadline – December 2008 for first instance trials and 2010 for appeals.

Nonetheless, the chief prosecutor said the ICTR was committed to winding up business within the stipulated timeframe, although “there are now new activities and a new workload that would still make us busy even after 2009.”

ICTR officials earlier this month requested the Security Council to extend the tribunal’s mandate to 2009, with Jallow citing the recent arrests of Callixte Nsabonimana, Dominique Ntawukuriryayo and Augustine Ngirabatware, as some of the cases that necessitated more time.

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