The decision by the Trial and Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to reject the transfer of cases to Kigali dilutes the government’s effort to end the culture of impunity.
Addressing the UN Security Council in New York yesterday, Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said the decision was a setback to the progress registered by the country in repairing the shattered national fabric not only in the justice sector but in all aspects of national reconciliation and reconstruction.
“The decisions taken by the Trial and Appeals Chamber have severely undermined my government’s ability to pursue and bring to justice those suspected of Genocide all over the world,” Ngoga said.
The ICTR, which was instituted to try masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, last year turned down the request by the tribunal’s prosecutor to transfer five cases to Rwanda as part of the completion mechanism of the backlogged UN court.
Ngoga however said Rwanda remains committed to support the ICTR, which is set to close in 2010.
He told the Council that the government will continue to facilitate the court with access to witnesses for both the defence and the prosecution and assist the movement of witnesses to and from Arusha.
“We have continued to ensure the security of witnesses and respond to any issues that have arisen on a case by case basis,” Ngoga explained.
He said the government had also continued to support investigations initiated by both the Prosecution and the Defence without prejudice to either.
He revealed that the government had undertaken a review and proposed amendments to the law governing the transfer of cases, the law abolishing the death penalty and had established a Witness Protection Unit within the Judiciary.
“These reforms are resolutely based on my government’s perspectives on the ICTR’s completion strategy and specifically the transfer of cases rather than the maintenance of the status quo.”
He said the decision to reject the transfer was based on incorrect assessments and occasionally, deliberate misrepresentations by human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch.
The denial for referral of these cases was based on claims by Human Rights Watch that Rwandan judiciary was ‘not yet prepared’ to handle the cases. He said the government remains confident that this situation will be reversed.