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Homepage > Publication Type > Media Releases > The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: Time for Pragmatism

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: Time for Pragmatism

Nairobi/Brussels  |   26 Sep 2003

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which has been given a new lease on life by the recent UN Security Council decision to grant it its own prosecutor and additional judges, needs to become more efficient quickly. The new prosecutor should complete all his genocide-related investigations by 2004 so the court can conclude the initial proceedings by 2008. He should also reopen outside the country investigations into suspected war crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), so as to keep the cases open past 2004 and be ready to indict if the Kigali government fails to act.

The International Crisis Group’s latest report in French, The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: Time for Pragmatism,* recognises the important steps the ICTR has already taken towards a more realistic approach to its proceedings. The determination of the new president judge, Erik Mose, who has given the UN General Assembly for the first time a final trial schedule, reflects a welcome sense of responsibility.

“The Tribunal’s realistic approach should now be taken to its logical conclusion”, said Dr François Grignon, Central Africa Project Director for ICG. “The new prosecutor, Judge Hassan Jallow, should immediately stop filing new charges on genocide dossiers and redirect the entirety of the court’s investigation services towards the final preparation of existing charges against the key suspected perpetrators, so that all cases will be ready for trial by the end of 2004. Judges must firmly apply a genuine control on hearings, fix end dates of proceedings currently underway and stick to Judge Mose’s trial calendar for the next four years. Reform of the registry’s management of defence costs is also vital”.

Rwanda itself has the first call on the very sensitive cases involving RPA personnel under an agreement reached between President Kagame’s government, the ICTR and the U.S. government in Washington earlier this year. If Kigali does not follow through, however, the court must have done the preliminary work so that it can step in to ensure that justice is done. Furthermore, the court should maintain its priority of judging the main suspects from the army and 1994 government, whose trials have been fixed for the last quarter of 2003. While the responsibility for trials of RPA members is given in the first instance to the Rwandan government, the ICTR prosecutor’s office must ensure there is an effective mechanism for constantly monitoring the progress of proceedings and verifying their equity and integrity.

“The conclusion of the initial proceedings within four to five years will only be possible if the court vigorously reforms the manner in which judges conduct trials and refuses to start any new genocide investigations”, said Dr Grignon. “However, it must also keep a close eye on the progress of the RPA dossiers as well, because reconciliation in Rwanda ultimately requires that all who committed terrible crimes in 1994 have their day in court”.

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