Top UN official defends Rwanda’s stand on ICTR

KIGALI - The visiting United Nations Deputy Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Patricia O’Brien, yesterday revealed that she ‘sympathises’ with Rwanda’s demands to take on the remaining cases at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) after its completion.
Patricia O’Bbrien and Martin Ngoga after their meeting at the latter’s office in Kimihurura yesterday. (Photo/ J. Mbanda).
Patricia O’Bbrien and Martin Ngoga after their meeting at the latter’s office in Kimihurura yesterday. (Photo/ J. Mbanda).

KIGALI - The visiting United Nations Deputy Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Patricia O’Brien, yesterday revealed that she ‘sympathises’ with Rwanda’s demands to take on the remaining cases at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) after its completion.

The ICTR is set to wind up its all trials at the end of next year and will only remain with cases on appeal until the end of 2010.

O’Brien, who is also the UN Legal Counsel, expressed this yesterday after meeting with the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, a meeting that aimed at discussing the ICTR’s residual mechanisms after its completion.

She told members of the press that Rwanda’s demands are genuine but was also quick to add that the decision remains entirely in the hands of the UN Security Council and the ICTR judges.

She however expressed optimism that a final stand will be reached adding that the UN appreciates and is supportive of Rwanda’s continuous efforts to discuss the issue of residual mechanisms and the legacy of the Tanzania-based tribunal.

Despite being on the verge of closing shop, much remains undone at the UN court with some suspects in detention whose trials are yet to begin.

The UN Official discussed with the Prosecutor General on a range of contentious issues ahead of the winding up of the ICTR with some of the key suspects supposed to be tried still at large.

Rwanda has made its intentions clear that it wants the untried suspects to be transferred to Rwanda to stand trial and convicts brought in the country to serve their respective sentences.

However Rwanda’s applications to do so have been turned down by the UN tribunal on the grounds that the suspects might not get a fair hearing.

“We have had quite a number of attempts to have some of these cases handed over to us after expressing our ability to handle these cases but not even a single case has been transferred,” Ngoga said in an interview.

Last year, ICTR Chief Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow moved a motion to have five suspects, four of whom are in the tribunal’s custody, transferred to Rwanda but this was later blocked by a Trial Chamber.

Ngoga stressed that Rwanda remains focussed on expressing its interest to have these cases transferred to Kigali when the Tribunal ends its mandate.

He also noted that the problem is not because Rwanda lacks enough facilities or the legal entities to deal with the cases, but because of the reluctance by the ICTR to have these cases handled by Rwanda.

Ngoga also noted that the UN decision contradicts itself because another UN Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone recommended Rwanda’s facilities and is even considering transferring convicts to Rwanda.

Ngoga also said that the only legacy the tribunal would leave behind is if it left the convicts and remaining cases in the hands of Rwandans. 

The ICTR was established by the UN Security Council in 1994 to try masterminds of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

The Prosecutor General added that Rwandans still harbour grievances against the UN for having failed to halt the genocide in which over a million people were killed, and neither are they impressed by the ICTR, which since its establishment has only completed 41 cases.

O’Brien who also visited Kenya to discuss with the authorities there about the issue of Kenya failing to apprehend one of the most wanted fugitives, Felicien Kabuga, said that she is optimistic that concrete steps will be taken to address the issue.

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