Global Policy Forum

Rwanda Alarmed by Resignation of Top Tribunal

Hirondelle News Agency
May 18, 2004

Rwanda's representative to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Aloys Mutabingwa, Tuesday, said that his country was very troubled by the high rate of resignations by top Tribunal officials. Mutabingwa made the remarks during a press conference held at his offices in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, where the Tribunal is located. He was reacting to the recent withdrawal of a judge from a very important trial at the ICTR.

Judge Andresia Vaz from Senegal, the vice president of the ICTR, was the second judge to withdraw from a trial since the beginning of this year. She had been the presiding judge in the trial of four senior officials in the former Rwandan government accused of genocide. "The Tribunal must come up with an answer to explain their leaving. These are among the most upright, professional and competent officers", said Mutabingwa.

Judge Vaz's withdrawal from the case follows shortly after the resignation from the Tribunal of Judge George Lloyd Williams from St. Kitts and Nevis and Judge Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana from Sri Lanka. Judge Williams' reasons for leaving were given by the ICTR as "personal" while Gunawardana reportedly resigned "on health grounds". No official reasons were given for Judge Vaz's withdrawal.

The Rwandan official suggested that it was likely some of the top ICTR brass were leaving because they did "not want to jeopardise their characters" in connection with what he termed "external pressures" exerted upon them.

"We are aware that the Tribunal is caught in a web of political crisis, but that should not be the issue", he said. The official hinted that France was one of the sources of the said pressure, adding that it was "undermining the due process of the court".

The President of the Tribunal, Judge Eric Mí¸se from Norway, has not yet announced a replacement for Vaz. He met on Monday with both prosecution and the defence teams in the trial in question to chart the way forward.

The trial known as the 'Government I' trial groups together three leaders of the former ruling party, the MRND: Mathieu Ngirumpatse, president; his vice president Edouard Karemera; and Joseph Nzirorera, Secretary General; and the former minister of education, Andre Rwamakuba. The defence has made it public that it intends to apply for a restart of the trial which only opened seven months ago.

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