Arusha, August 9, 2001 (FH) - The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has asked the UN to approve a pool of 18 "ad litem" (standby) judges for the ICTR, to help it discharge its heavy caseload, Tribunal Registrar Adama Dieng of Senegal told a recent international conference. Dieng said ICTR judges recognized that "the pace of justice needs to be expedited without compromising the integrity of the process" and had, over the past two years, introduced a number of changes to the ICTR's Rules to "remove delays and bottlenecks in the judicial process".

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But he admitted further measures were now needed. "The judges are now approaching the outer limit to the possibilities for amending the Rules, and it has become clear that, in order to discharge the Tribunal's heavy caseload by the end of the decade, given the current and future caseload generated by the indictments of the Prosecutor, additional judicial manpower is necessary, " Dieng said. He was speaking at a "Justice in Africa" conference held in Wilton Park, southeast England, which ended on August 2nd. Registrar Dieng stressed that the ICTR's mandate was to try only the ringleaders of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, that it was doing this job, and that it would try at most "100-150 persons during its lifespan". Since it started operations in late 1995, the ICTR has handed down nine verdicts: eight convictions and one acquittal. It currently has 51 people in detention under its jurisdiction and 15 people on trial. Dieng noted that the average length of trials so far at both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was 18 months. "The problem of slow pace of trials is a systematic problem of international criminal justice as the concept works in the two UN criminaltribunals," he told the conference, "and is not peculiar to the Arusha Tribunal…"He noted that the ICTY "earlier requested similar additional judicial manpower and the (UN) General Assembly on 12 June 2001 elected 27 ad litem judges for that Tribunal". Some observers have asked why the ICTR did not at that time also ask for ad litem judges to serve as standby extra judicial resources. Informed sources at the ICTR had previously told Hirondelle in July 2001 that the subject of ad litem judges for the Tribunal was on the table. Hirondelle put the question to one source as to whether, even if these judges were approved, the ICTR would not have to find new courtrooms. TheTribunal currently has only three, rented from Tanzania's state-run Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC). Each court has three judges. In reply, the source said that the possibility of a shift system was under review, meaning that the courtrooms would be used to maximum capacity during the available working hours. All the organs of the ICTR - Chambers, Registry and Prosecution - seem aware of the need for reforms to speed up the trials. But even with the current three courts and nine judges, simultaneous operation of the three Trial Chambers is still a rare event. The scheduling of trials frequently leaves all parties frustrated and the illness or absence of one judge can still hold up a trial indefinitely. These problems will also need to be tackled as the ICTR presses for structural reforms to speed up its judicial process. JC/MBR/FH (RE0809e)