Arusha, July 24, 2001 (FH) - Former Rwandan mayor Ignace Bagilishema, who became on June 7th the first person acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), is finding it hard to understand why he is still in isolated UN custody, his lawyer said in Arusha on Tuesday afternoon. "He is up and down, but he is finding the time very long and he doesn't understand why he is still there," François Roux of France told Hirondelle.

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Roux said that Bagilishema, despite being technically a free man, still has no more freedom or privileges than he has had for the last two and a half years in ICTR custody. Roux does not blame the ICTR as such, but rather the UN member states that set the Tribunal up, "and particularly the permanent members of the Security Council", he says, which are unwilling to offer asylum to an acquitted Rwandan genocide suspect. Two of these countries - France and the United States - have been approached via the ICTR Registrar to take Bagilishema in, but both have refused. Roux says he is unaware of any reasons for their decisions, but rather that "they let it be known that it is not possible". Similar requests have also been turned down by two Scandinavian countries. Roux confirmed that he had now asked the ICTR to approach Canada as a potential host country for Bagilishema. He said African countries had not been approached as yet "for obvious security reasons". "The purpose of my visit here," he told Hirondelle in Arusha, "is to alert the ICTR to the situation in which we find ourselves. " Roux added that his cooperation with the ICTR Registry had always been good and continued to be so. Human rights abuse?"I am arguing on behalf of a free man," Roux pleaded to the court immediately after Bagilishema's acquittal on June 7th this year. He insisted that, according to international law, detention should be the exception and freedom the norm. "This man has been declared not-guilty and he should be freed," Roux argued. Nearly two months on, and despite protests from Amnesty International, Bagilishema remains in custody with nowhere to go. He does not feel he can safely go back to Rwanda but, according to Roux, wants to go to a European country. "What is frightening," Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted Roux as saying in an earlier press interview on July 15th, "is to note that the (ICTR's) Statutes do not consider acquittal, and that consequently the ICTR was only conceived to condemn (suspects) like a machine. "Bagilishema's situation is further complicated by the fact that the ICTR attached conditions to his release, upon a request from the prosecution. Because the Prosecutor is appealing his acquittal, the court ordered that Bagilishema must have two referees to vouch that he will turn up in court, and an address in his country of destination, before the UN will release him. Roux says the only country in which the conditions can so far be met is France, but France has refused to take him. Paris is being asked to reconsider its decision. Asked about possible remedies, Roux said he could appeal for the court to lift its conditions. However, he said the conditions were not the first problem at the moment, but rather to find a country willing in principle to take Bagilishema. Roux told Hirondelle that he might also ask the ICTR to appeal to the UN Security Council. The Tribunal could do this under one of its own Rules which obliges UN member states to cooperate with it. However, the ICTR has never appealed to the Security Council despite recurrent cooperation problems with member states in its several years of existence. "It is rather the international community that is at fault than the Tribunal," Roux told Hirondelle. "The states that created the Tribunal ought to feel responsible for this situation. "JC/MBR/FH (BS0724e)