With the United Nations Security Council mandated International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) scheduled to close down at the end of the year, its focus must remain on tracking down genocide suspects still at large, finalise the ongoing cases and concentrate on referring whatever is unfinished to national jurisdictions.
However, the recent letter by Human Rights Watch (HRW) addressed to the ICTR prosecutor, Hassan B. Jallow urging him to prosecute crimes supposedly committed by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) is only out to distract the final stages of the tribunal.
A distracted tribunal is the best thing that would happen to the likes of Felicien Kabuga who are still at large because it only gives them more opportunity to escape the arm of law.
It is important to note that as long as such high level suspects are still at large, the culture of impunity is only being promoted. And, that is not the message the UNSC should be sending out.
At this point, the ICTR and the Security Council should concentrate on working out two key issues. One is a mechanism to determine how the big fish will be brought to justice even after the ICTR’s time is up.
The other is to streamline the referral of unfinished cases to Rwanda’s national jurisdiction. Considering that not many countries would welcome genocide suspects into their territories, Rwanda remains the most plausible destination.
A legislation that excludes the death penalty and provides extensive guarantees for fair trial was enacted. And, there is no doubt that Rwanda’s legal system too has greatly improved to international standards - thanks to continued donor assistance.
Organisations such as the HRW would rather dedicate their resources to putting in place mechanisms for monitoring such trials than distracting the ICTR.