A four-day conference on the protection of genocide victims and witnesses that ended Sunday, has recommended that the government of Rwanda establishes an autonomous national witness protection service.
The conference took place at Top Tower Hotel in Kacyiru bringing together government officials and representatives from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to discuss the security of witnesses ahead of the pending transfer of cases from the tribunal to Rwanda.
The tribunal which was established by the United Nations to try masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis is set to close its doors at the end of next year and with Rwanda being a prime candidate to receive pending cases.
According to conference resolutions, the national witness protection service should be made up of a multi-discipline team that brings together lawyers, doctors, psychologists, police officers and human rights defenders.
The service currently operates as a unit in the National Public Prosecutions Authority (NPPA).
The Deputy Prosecutor General, Alphonse Hitiyaremye, told delegates that Rwanda has taken all necessary measures to receive all cases when the tribunal’s mandate ends next year.
“We are here to share experiences on witnesses’ protection and support with our colleagues from the ICTR-Arusha, and chart a way forward mainly regarding witness protection after the tribunal closes down,” Hitiyaremye said in an interview.
The Principal State attorney, Claire Umwari, told the conference that the main challenge the organ faces will be resources in the handling of witnesses and victim protection in conformity to the tribunal’s standards.
“We shall have a problem of supporting the witness conforming to the Arusha tribunal standards, paying for transport, medical insurance among other facilities, the organ will have to mobilise funds from donors like, European Union, USAID and many more,” Umwali advised.
It was suggested that the organ, collaborates with the United Nations though it will be governed by a Presidential or Ministerial Decree, with the government of Rwanda working closely with NGOs to efficiently achieve its obligations.