Arusha, July 26, 2001 (FH) - International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Registrar Adama Dieng of Senegal said on Thursday he hoped to meet shortly with the French foreign minister in Paris, to urge France to grant asylum to acquitted Rwandan ex-mayor Ignace Bagilishema. Bagilishema became, on June 7th, the first person to be acquitted on all charges by the ICTR.

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He has expressed a desire to go to a European country, but no country will so far take him, and he remains in UN custody in Arusha. Dieng told a press conference in Arusha on Thursday that he would be in Paris the following week and hoped to meet notably with French Minister of Foreign Affairs Hubert Védrine. "We are hoping that France, with its long tradition of human rights and support for the ICTR will consider with sympathy" the request that it accommodate Bagilishema, said Dieng. He stressed that France was the only country where court-imposed conditions for Bagilishema's release had so far been met, although he added that the ICTR was also contacting other countries. The judges initially ordered Bagilishema's immediate release, but the ICTR Prosecutor announced she was appealing his acquittal, and asked that he be kept in custody. The court then ordered that Bagilishema must have two people to guarantee that he would turn up in court and an address in his prospective country of residence, before he can be released. France, two Scandinavian countries and the United States are so far known to have turned down requests to grant Bagilishema asylum. Bagilishema's French lawyer François Roux told Hirondelle in Arusha on Tuesday that he had asked the ICTR Registry to approach Canada. "I am a bit embarrassed that he (Bagilishema) is still around," Dieng told journalists. The Registrar stressed that Bagilishema had been acquitted, and that the UN in particular could not afford to be accused of an "arbitrary and illegal detention". Roux has complained that the ICTR Statute does not make any provision for acquittals. Asked how the ICTR might avoid a similar situation in the future, Dieng said that it was being addressed by "one of our judicial recess studies". The ICTR has just gone into its annual judicial recess. One perceived problem is that any host country may attract Rwanda's disapproval. Although Rwanda has not threatened retaliatory action, as it did when the ICTR Appeals Court ordered the release on procedural grounds of another ICTR detainee (Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza), the Kigali authorities were clearly not happy with the Tribunal's decision to acquit Bagilishema. However Dieng, who recently paid a three-day visit to Kigali, refuted this idea. "I don't think at all that Rwanda would ever consider the fact of accommodating an acquitted person as an unfriendly gesture," he told the press. "They respect our decision. "GA/JC/MBR/FH (BS0726e)