Global Policy Forum

ICTR on the Right Track Three Years


Hirondelle News Agency
October 29, 2005

The president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Erik Mí¸se from Norway, earlier this month presented his annual report to the UN General Assembly. He took the occasion to reemphasise his will to respect the deadline set for the tribunal's mandate – the end of 2008 for all first instance trials, while appeals will continue until 2010. On his return from New York, Judge Mí¸se gave an interview to Hirondelle News Agency to explain the source of his optimism.

Hirondelle: You have just returned from New York where you affirmed before the General Assembly that by the end of 2008, the tribunal will have completed all the trials before it. Is that not being over optimistic?

Judge Mí¸se: No, we are on the right track. Three of the five multi-accused trials - Butare, Military I and Government II- are making steady progress. In the Military II trial, more than half of the prosecution witnesses have testified. Once we have completed these trials, our task will be easier, since only single-accused trials will remain. Our projections are based on the premise that we will continue to receive sufficient resources, that states will apprehend the indictees at large, and that some cases are transferred to national jurisdictions for trial.

Hirondelle: Don't you feel that the issue of transfer of cases acts as a kind of pressure on detainees awaiting their trial? That, should they be tried swiftly or agree to plead guilty, they avoid being sent to Kigali?

Judge Mí¸se: That is not the intention. The situation is simply this: The Chambers have not received any request from the Prosecutor for transfer to national jurisdictions under Rule 11 bis. He has indicated that he may do so in the course of 2006. We do not know which countries these requests will relate to. When they are filed, the Chambers will consider them on a case-by-case basis.

Hirondelle: Should we expect this before the end of the year?

Judge Mí¸se: The exact timing will be decided by the Prosecutor. The Chambers will then consider them. At present, I note that no request under Rule 11 bis has been filed. In relation to Rwanda, it should be recalled that the Prosecutor has already transferred fifteen and then another ten dossiers of persons who have not been indicted by the Tribunal. He has said that he might transfer more such files. Such transfers of dossiers of suspects do not require decisions by the Chambers under Rule 11 bis.

Hirondelle: What is the progress of Bagilishema's request to be compensated for the time he was in detention before being released?

Judge Mí¸se: The request, which raises important questions of principle, was replied to in October. Counsel for Mr. Bagilishema was informed that the Statute does not provide any legal basis for such compensation. A similar approach has been adopted by the ICTY. However, both ad hoc Tribunals recognize the need for provisions concerning claims for compensation from wrongfully convicted persons, unjustly prosecuted persons and unlawfully detained persons. The Tribunals have requested the Security Council to amend their Statutes. Such provisions are yet to be adopted.

Hirondelle: In about two years time, the tribunal will start closing down some of its activities. Has there been any consideration within the United Nations or here at the ICTR as to the future of its employees?

Judge Mí¸se: This is an important area which has been discussed regularly in the Co-ordination Council, composed of the President, Prosecutor and Registrar. As I have already said, we remain committed to the completion of all trials by the end of 2008. At the same time, we are all well aware of the need to not only focus on the judicial aspects but also more general issues, including staff welfare, archives, the use of courtrooms, etc.

Even though it is not possible now, in 2005, to provide precise projections, it appears obvious that there will be a need for an infrastructure in Arusha during a transitional period after the completion of trials. There will be detainees at the UNDF with appeals to be completed by the end of 2010, according to the Security Council deadlines. Further investigations may be required in connection with these proceedings. Other core services may be required in connection with the appeals proceedings. This will require staff. For instance, there will be a need for security officers, witness protection assistants and court personnel, as well as some administrators.

It is important to note that it is not only the ICTR that is faced with these issues. The ICTY and the Sierra Leone Court find themselves in similar situations. The Registrars are in contact about these issues and have had meetings at UN Headquarters. The Secretary-General has recently submitted a report about staff retention to the General Assembly. Moreover, the Registrar has set up a Legacy Committee, composed of representatives of all three branches of the Tribunal. In its report, the Committee will consider issues arising in connection with the completion of the ICTR's work as well as the situation thereafter.

We will have to come back to the details later. But there appears to be general agreement that the end of the mandate will not come as an abrupt rupture to our personnel but will be implemented gradually.

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