The East African Community’s (EAC) Council of Ministers, will not discuss a proposal on the transfer of cases from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to the regional bloc’s court, The New Times has learnt.
The Council of Ministers, an EAC policy-making organ, will meet in Arusha, Tanzania, later next month to discuss various issues to be tabled before the EAC Heads of State Summit.
The Minister for EAC Affairs, Monique Mukaruliza, who is also the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, yesterday, said that the proposal was not considered because there are ongoing negotiations between the government and the ICTR to have the tribunal’s cases transferred to Rwanda.
During a peace conference that was held in Kampala early this month, the ICTR Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow, tabled the controversial proposal requesting that the EAC treaty be amended to enable the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) handle outstanding cases when the tribunal closes down next year.
“This will not appear anywhere because during the conference, the Rwandan delegation made it clear that negotiations are ongoing between the Government and the ICTR. So, it was not included in the recommendations,” the Minister told The New Times.
The rejection by the regional bloc leaves ICTR with a task of looking for more alternatives, considering the UN Security Council has given the tribunal until next year to finish all cases at first instance level.
High Court President, Justice Johnston Busingye, who is also a Principal Judge at the EACJ, said in a separate interview that if it was anything to go by, the decision on the proposal would have entirely rested with the EAC Heads of State summit, adding that it would have come with some challenges.
“Yes, it would be a challenge, but once it’s a decision of the summit, it means the partner states are willing to make the necessary support behind the court.”
“Right now, we operate as an ad hoc court, probably that would mean that we change that status. We work in our respective countries and only go to EACJ when we have work to do,” Busingye said.
Meanwhile, the ICTR yesterday distanced itself from the transfer proposal, saying that Jallow’s paper at the Kampala conference only raised a series of possible options to the delegates and that it was not an ICTR decision.
“It goes without saying that any such a decision can only be granted by the Trial Chambers at the request of the Prosecutor,” the ICTR Spokesperson, Roland Amoussouga said when contacted yesterday.