Arusha, September 7, 2000 (FH) – Genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza has called on two judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to withdraw from his case, following their recent visit to Rwanda, the independent news agency Hirondelle reports. The judges concerned are ICTR President Navanethem Pillay of South Africa and Vice-President Eric Mose of Norway.

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Judges Pillay and Mose, along with three other ICTR judges, visited Rwanda at the end of August. Their itinerary included visits to two massacre sites and meetings with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Attorney-General Gerald Gahima. “With respect, we urge you to recuse yourself from hearing Mr. Barayagwiza’s case pursuant to Rule 15 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence,” the defendant’s American co-counsel wrote to each of the two judges on Thursday. “Meetings with Messrs. Kagame and Gahima in a non-judicial setting, when the very conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity which are alleged against our client are the reason for the meeting, are highly inappropriate. The appearance of impropriety is exacerbated by the fact it comes within three weeks of the scheduled start of this trial. ”Article 15 of the ICTR Rules of Procedure and Evidence requires judges to withdraw from a case if they have a personal interest in it or have been in a situation which could compromise their impartiality. Barayagwiza, a former politician and founder of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, is due to be tried with two other suspects linked to the so-called hate-media which incited genocide in Rwanda in 1994. The trial is due to start on September 18th. Danielson argues that “both Messrs. Kagame and Gahima have been allowed to directly inject themselves into a pending case before this Tribunal”, and that for the judges to meet “with those holding the existence of the Tribunal hostage three weeks before trial compromises your honor’s impartiality”. He refers to Rwanda’s suspension of co-operation with the ICTR after the Tribunal’s Appeals Court ordered the release of his client on procedural grounds. The Appeals Court subsequently revised its decision after the Prosecutor presented “new facts” and Rwanda was allowed to appear as an amicus curiae (friend of the court). It was represented at the hearing by Attorney-General Gahima. “The government of Rwanda has been clear from the start about how the Tribunal can assure its continued cooperation,” writes Danielson. “Mr Barayagwiza must be convicted. Mr. Gahima made it clear in his argument that our client was guilty. He did not ask for a fair trial. He asked – with the price being the very survival of this Tribunal – for his conviction. ”Danielson says the judges’ visit to Rwanda was “explicitly designed to improve relations and cure the damage to relations between the Tribunal and the government of Rwanda caused by the “Barayagwiza affair”. That is a political, and not judicial, function”. Speaking to journalists after the judges’ visit to Rwanda, Judge Pillay said that it “in no way affects our impartiality, because we judge each case on the evidence presented in the courtroom ”. "We are judges, not politicians," she stressed. "We've been sitting on these cases for four years and we have some experience. We've heard the evidence and there is some stability inside Rwanda as well, and important questions now come up for consideration: Are we in a position to complete the cases of people awaiting trial? Is the prosecution able to investigate properly? Can defence counsel go there? Are witnesses being taken care of? These are concerns of the President of the Tribunal. I head the whole Tribunal and I'm supposed to take care of everyone's interests, includingaccused persons. "ICTR prisoners do not see it that way, however, and have also written to the Tribunal President. “We find it unjust,” they wrote in a letter dated September 7th, “that our Judges visit the sites (of massacres) and form impressions, pretending to do it in the interests of all the parties while the parties are absent. It is not just, either, that General Paul Kagame, main architect of the Rwandan tragedy, be honoured with a visit by ICTR judges. By doing so, you have served to confirm his illusions that he need not worry about being arrested and judged for his crimes. You have confirmed, once again, that the ICTR is there to ensure a victor’s justice over the vanquished. ”After a long category of complaints about the judges’ visit, 25 genocide suspects say they are asking their defence teams to “take the measures necessary to safeguard our right to just and fair trials”. JC/FH (BR%0907e)