Global Policy Forum

Rwanda: Government Could Cut Links


By James Munyaneza

New Times
September 12, 2006

The week-long ultimatum the Rwandan government gave to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to terminate a contract for Callixte Gakwaya runs out today with the tribunal still tightlipped. The government is now pondering the next move should the remaining one day bear no fruit, senior officials said yesterday. "We are waiting for a week to elapse, that is the day after tomorrow, and we shall then take a serious measure. Among the alternative decisions is stopping our cooperation with them," said the State Minister for Cooperation, Rosemary Museminali.

She said the Rwandan government was terribly hurt by the continued existence of genocide suspects within the Tribunal, adding that a total of 18 genocide suspects were working in various capacities at the Tanzania-based UN genocide tribunal. "Our position has not changed. It's something we take as a great concern," she said. Justice Minister Tharsise Karugarama said the government would take what he called "appropriate measures" should the Tribunal fail to cooperate immediately. "We are terribly concerned with ICTR conduct in these genocide charges; it's very unfortunate and we are reviewing the issue. We will take appropriate measures," he said yesterday.

Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said the Tribunal can only cooperate if it "immediately" terminated Gakwaya's contract to facilitate legal proceedings against him. "The contract has to be terminated. No compromise on things involving genocidaires," he emphasised. Gakwaya is protected by a standing agreement between the UN and Dar es Salaam which provides him immunity.

The controversy emerged last Tuesday after ICTR secured the release of Gakwaya from Tanzanian police custody, four days after his arrest over his alleged role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Gakwaya is a defence counsel of one Yusuf Munyakazi, a genocide suspect at the Tribunal, and he was intercepted by police in the Tanzanian northern town of Arusha on an official trip to ICTR from his residence in Mozambique. In particular, Kigali is incensed with ICTR Registrar Adama Dieng, who made a private visit to the country last week. Dieng is reported to have personally pressurised the Tanzanian government to release Gakwaya, who is suspected to have committed genocide crimes in Kigali City.

Ngoga said the government would be able to announce its decision on the dispute before the week runs out. And the issue is likely to be discussed in the weekly Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, from which a decision could be reached. Experts say that if the government cuts its links with ICTR, it could affect the tribunal's preparations to phase out, because it is faced with a 2008 deadline (for trials) and 2010 for appeals.

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