Rwanda: ICTR/ Completion Strategy - Rwanda Tribunal 'Expects to Meet Closure Target'

Arusha — The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda expects to complete all its judicial activities by the end of 2014, in accordance with a UN deadline, ICTR officials told Hirondelle on Thursday.

To help the Tribunal meet the deadline, the UN set up the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which in July took over some of the ICTR's functions.

"According to the current evaluation of the President (of the Tribunal), all the ICTR's judicial activities should be completed around December 31, 2014, as specified," said ICTR spokesperson Roland Amoussouga.

The current President of the ICTR is Danish judge Vagn Joensen.

"According to the President, there are now two main judicial tasks for the ICTR, which are to complete the last first-instance trial, and to clear all other judgments and decisions," said Amoussouga.

The only trial still before a first-instance court is that of former Rwandan Planning Minister Augustin Ngirabatware. A judgment is expected before the end of this year, according to Tribunal forecasts.

The handling of appeals is also "on the right track", according to Amoussouga and should be finished by the end of 2014.

Seven cases involving 17 former Rwandan personalities are currently at the appeal stage. Four are joint cases, while the others all involve one person only.

The furthest advanced is the case of former ministers Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza, who were both sentenced to 30 years in jail by the lower court. The two had their appeal hearing on October 8, and judges are now deliberating their decision.

Dates have not yet been set for appeals hearings in the other cases. Proceedings are being slowed down by translation problems, as documents need translating mainly from English to French, the working language of those concerned.

The most high profile and the most complicated case involves former Minister of Family Affairs Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and five others including her son, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali. Nyiramasuhuko, the only woman indicted by the ICTR, has been convicted for crimes including conspiracy to commit genocide and rape.

Then comes the case of former Rwandan army officers, including the former chiefs of the army and gendarmerie, Augustin Bizimungu and Augustin Ndindiliyimana.

The last joint case involves Mathieu Ngirumpatse and Edouard Karemera, ex-president and vice-president respectively of the former ruling party MRND.

The three cases with one individual involve a former minister, a former army officer and a former mayor.

Amoussouga said it was clear that handling appeals in the joint cases is more complicated but said work was nevertheless proceeding in accordance with ICTR forecasts. "We hope that continues,"he added.

Other functions such as the management of ICTR archives, supervision of sentence implementation, witness protection, tracking fugitives and cooperation with national jurisdictions are now in the hands of the MICT. If Ngirabatware appeals, it will also be up to the MICT to handle his appeals case.

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