The registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Christopher Bongani Majora, who is on a three-day visit to Rwanda, has declared that the two cases transferred by the tribunal to France are monitored with "great concern."
Bongani Majora, after meeting Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama, said that the cases of former Gikongoro prefect Laurent Bucyibaruta and Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka which were transferred to France in 2007, are being followed up by the tribunal, even though prosecutor general Martin Ngoga recently expressed his doubts, saying that the ICTR should ensure that the accused are tried or, if France fails to do so, take the cases back to the tribunal.
"We have sent a delegation to France to express our concerns that their investigation is going slowly," the ICTR registrar said. "Now they have established a unit to deal with such cases which is paying off, and the trial for one of them is ready to start."
Bongani Majora further said that another factor which contributed to the delay of the two cases is that in France's judicial process, there is first collection of evidence through investigation which takes a lot of time, before the trial. "For us, we spend more time on trials than investigation."
However, the registrar said that the ICTR has no longer the power to revoke cases. "We have considered all the possible ways but as you know since July 12 last year, the tribunal's jurisdiction was transferred to the residual mechanism by the article 1966 of the Security Council. It's no longer within our jurisdiction to deal with the cases."
Concerning monitors for the French trials, he said that in the past the tribunal had not yet established regulations concerning monitoring, but that this has in the meantime been corrected.
Priest at the parish of the Holy Family in Kigali between 1992 and 1994, Father Wenceslas lives in exile in Gisors (North-west of France) since 2001. He is accused of killing and raping several persons and handing over dozens of Tutsis to the Interahamwe militiamen, who then killed them. France indicted him in 1995 but in 2004, the European Court of Human Rights condemned the country for its slowness in dealing with the case.
In Rwanda, Father Wenceslas was in 2006sentenced in absentia to life in jail.
Laurent Bucyibaruta lives near Troyes (north-east of France). A former member of Juvénal Habyarimana's party, MRND, he was indicted by the French judiciary in 2000. The ICTR alleges that he incited the Interahamwe to perpetrate the genocide in Gikongoro (South).
Talking about the recent acquittals of the two ministers of the genocidal regime, the ICTR registrar said that judges are independent to decide whether someone is guilty or not, although he expressed sympathy for the angry reaction in Rwanda. "The decision of the appeals chamber of the tribunal was unfortunate for Rwanda. These are the consequences of the system we are working within."
Karugarama for his part qualified the acquittals as a 'disastrous' decision on the side of an international tribunal like the ICTR. "However, whether we like it or not, we will learn to live with it like we have learned to live many other consequences of our country's history," the Justice Minister said.