ARUSHA - The President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), has said that as the tribunal prepares to close, national jurisdictions should effectively play their role in the fight against the culture of impunity.
In his address to the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday, Justice Dennis Byron said that ICTR’s closing shouldn’t send a wrong signal to suspects on the run that they can now breathe more easily.
The tribunal has until the end of next year to have closed and it still has suspects in detention whose trials have not started in substance while others are still at large.
“Those at lower levels must be dealt with by national jurisdictions, in Rwanda and in other countries where Genocide suspects are still residing,” Byron said.
The UN Security Council has directed that all pending cases at first instance level must close by end of 2010.
His remarks came after the arrest and subsequent transfer of Genocide suspects Gregory Ndahimana and most recently Ildephonse Nizeyimana a man Byron described as one of the four fugitives who are considered high–rank responsible in the Genocide.
The ICTR President reiterated that the tribunal is ready to assist national jurisdictions in their efforts to ensure that the impunity gap doesn’t prevail.
He also informed the assembly that he expects judgments in nearly all current pending first instance trials by next year.
“Since 1 July 2008 until today, the trial chambers have rendered judgments in eight cases involving seven accused. Four more judgments will be rendered by the end of this year,” he said.
As for the next year, Byron said that judgements are expected in nearly all current pending first instance cases - which are fourteen trials against 24 accused.
He however warned that there will possibly be spill-overs in the trial involving three political leaders of the former Rwandan ruling party, MRND.
The trial has been delayed by the adverse health of one of the accused, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, who has been bedridden for almost a year now.
Up to now, no country has been found for the relocation of two acquitted persons; former Minister of Transport and Communications, Andre Ntagerura, and former military commander, Brigadier Gratien Kabiligi, who are still housed in Arusha.
The ICTR has since its establishment in 1994 convicted 38 persons and acquitted six while sixteen accused are currently waiting verdicts, 10 others are on trial and four accused await the start of their cases.