UN Prosecutor urges countries to walk the talk in tracking Genocide fugitives

Serge Brammertz, the Chief Prosecutor for the International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. Net photo.

Serge Brammertz, the Chief Prosecutor of the Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (RMICT) was in Rwanda last week where he, among others, held talks with Prosecutor General Jean Bosco Mutangana.

His visit came barely a month after he briefed the UN Security Council about his office’s work in hunting down masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi who remain at large. In Kigali, Brammertz was on a sort of fact finding mission where he compared notes with colleagues.


He had complained to the Council about the lack of cooperation from some countries in arresting Genocide fugitives.


The New Times’ James Karuhanga interviewed him on these developments, including the situation with South Africa where one of the three most wanted fugitives, Protais Mpiranya, is believed to be holed up.



What has your latest visit to Kigali been all about?

The reason for my visit here is really to mainly have meetings with the Prosecutor General but also with some of the operational services to exchange information more broadly in relation to other fugitives as well. So, it is really, my usual visit. What I am trying do every two months is to increase the exchange of information and cooperation we have. But also, of course, because it was my first visit after the Security Council, to give some information to the Prosecutor General about where we are in relation to cooperation with South Africa (with regards to apprehending Mpiranya, whom the UN Court believes to be hiding there).

What can you tell us about where “we are” with South Africa?

Well, the ball is in the camp of South Africa. I mean, as you have seen, I was very outspoken in New York in saying that it’s unfortunate that for almost a year no action has been taken. But, as you have followed, South Africa indicated their willingness to cooperate and of course we are now hoping that this willingness is also translated into concrete action and that is what we are still waiting for.

Did they give official feedback to you?

Well, this was already in the Security Council and on the day following the Security Council (meeting), South Africa indicated that they are willing to cooperate. But, of course, between the willingness and action on the ground, it is still a certain way to go.

What tangible gains did you take from the Security Council meeting?

I think it was positive in the sense that South Africa as a member of the Security Council indicated to us for the first time that they were committed to cooperate. And, the other members of the Security Council also called on South Africa but also called on all UN member states to cooperate in relation to the arrest of the fugitives. In the end, I think it was put higher on the agenda of the Security Council because there was very concrete information we were sharing.

Besides Mpiranya, do you know where the other top two fugitives Félicien Kabuga and Augustin Bizimungu are?

Well, you know, I know it’s always frustrating for journalists because we are not giving a lot of information but the important issue about fugitive tracking is not to disclose concrete information. But we are indeed, in contact with several countries. We have a number of pending requests in several countries in relation to the other fugitives we are looking for. But it’s really too early to communicate about it.

When does your term of office end and how does it affect all this?

It’s always a term of two years. My current mandate is ending in June of next year.

What do you hope to have achieved before it ends?

It is of course very much work in progress. We think that we located one of the key fugitives as I mentioned earlier, in one of the countries. We are working on importantly stimulation of the other cases. I think that to redouble we managed, we think, to really prove that there is serious interference with witnesses and I think this is definitely a very important case which is in the centre of the denial of genocide. So, I think we have some achievements but of course I will only be satisfied once one of the fugitives is arrested and transferred to The Hague. As long as this is not happening I am not satisfied obviously.

How much work would you  say remains to be done?

I think we are making progress in relation to getting more intelligence, more analysis and more information about their whereabouts but it is obvious that I don’t have a police force or an army I can send out to arrest the fugitives. I am very much dependent on the cooperation of states and this remains a challenge, with South Africa obviously, but also with other countries. That is why I think that it was very important that in the Security Council key members or the permanent members called on countries to cooperate with us. So, I would say that there is obviously progress but I am definitely not satisfied with our results.

Do you envisage a time when the three other top cases are referred to Rwanda?

I give us a few years more to try to have those fugitives arrested. But it is technically one of the options, at a certain moment, to transfer those remaining cases to Rwanda. But this is really not a decision to be taken by the prosecutor. This would be, at the end of the day, a decision to be made by judges at the request of the prosecutor. But we are not there yet. My objective is, really, to continue pushing hard to have all eight fugitives arrested and this is our commitment which we will continue to try to secure.


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