Arusha, July 26, 2001 (FH) - International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Registrar Adama Dieng on Thursday called on African countries to emulate Belgium by trying Rwandan genocide suspects. Belgium last month tried and convicted four Rwandan nationals on charges related to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

2 min 11Approximate reading time

The trial was the first of its kind held by a national civil court outside Rwanda. "It is also my hope that like Belgium, we will witness one day an African state taking action regarding the trial of suspects of genocide," Dieng told journalists at the ICTR headquarters in Arusha. The Registrar said the ICTR alone did not have the capacity to try all suspects of the 1994 genocide. He said it would only try about 150 people. Since it was set up in 1995, the ICTR has completed trials of nine suspects, three of whom pleaded guilty. Eight were given prison sentences of between 12 years and life, while one was acquitted. Cooperation with RwandaThe Registrar was speaking after a three-day visit to Rwanda last week, during which he met ICTR staff in Kigali, Rwandan authorities and various civil groups. Dieng said that his meetings with Rwandan authorities, including the ministers of Justice and Foreign Affairs, focused on boosting cooperation between the ICTR and Kigali. He said he had also stressed the need forTribunal defence lawyers to have access to investigate and find witnesses in Rwanda. Some defence lawyers at the ICTR have complained of problems in this respect. "It was important to address also that issue with the authorities," Dieng told journalists, "to make sure that they will continue to provide and even increase the level of cooperation towards the defence. (…) And I should say that they have really got the message. ""As you know," said the Registrar, "without the possibility of gathering evidence in a free manner, justice will not be done. (…) That is why the cooperation of the Rwandan government is crucial when it comes to gathering evidence in Rwanda. "He said that Rwandan Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo had asked to meet defence lawyers for a discussion on their concerns. ICTR trials in Rwanda?Dieng also reiterated that the ICTR aimed to hold part of its trials on Rwandan territory. "We are supervising the construction of a courtroom at the Supreme Court building in Kigali," he said. However, the Registrar could not say when such hearings might start. He said both the Registry and Prosecution were in favour, but that there were many hurdles and the final decision would be up to the judges. Among the problems, he cited security concerns and the question of whether ICTR detainees would be willing to go to Rwanda. "Will the accused accept to be tried in Rwanda?" asked Dieng, "Are we in position to oblige them to be tried in Kigali?"Dieng said that Rwanda was still short of funds to construct the courtroom and needed more funding from donors. He said Switzerland had donated $100,000 and that he hoped the European Community would also be willing to contribute. The Registrar also said the ICTR was planning to open a radio station in Rwanda as part of its "Outreach Programme". He could not give a time frame for its launch but said that it would be an important tool to inform Rwandans about the work of the Tribunal. Dieng said that the radio could also be used for educative and human rights broadcasts. He added that it would not broadcast political programmes. GG/JC/PHD/FH (RE0726F)