On September 11 this year, the full weight of international law came down upon four men and a woman in Rwanda. They were arrested at the behest of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) and transferred to Arusha Tanzania to stand trial. ICTR was the predecessor of the MICT.
It is alleged that the group tried to coerce witnesses who had testified against Augustin Ngirabatware to retract their testimonies. Had they been successful, it would have led to the accused being exonerated from his 30-year jail sentence. It was a very long call but there was a remote possibility of success.
They were charged with contempt and incitement to commit contempt of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the Mechanism.
It is not very common to see people dragged before the tribunal for contempt, maybe because the MICT was not really looking too much into it.
The arrest of the group was a result of close cooperation between Rwanda and MICT, and going by the pledge by the visiting MICT Prosecutor, new avenues of cooperation were opened. The only question that still lingers is; what new strategy will the MICT come up with?
Are they now going to be more implicated in helping track many of the fugitives who do not feature in their indictments? The tribunal chose to limit itself to the big fish, but some of those indicted were choirboys compared to some of the most vicious characters out there.
Helping apprehend those people would be a bigger contribution and a major step in redeeming the tribunal’s image and posterity. Relationships between Rwanda and the UN tribunal have not always been that rosy, but it is never too late to make amends.