Arusha, July 17, 2001 (FH) - France has refused asylum to acquitted Rwandan genocide suspect Ignace Bagilishema, despite two French nationals "of high moral standing" having guaranteed they would accommodate him, says Bagilishema's lawyer. Two Scandinavian countries also subsequently refused similar requests, he says.

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"That is how we find ourselves in the unbelievable situation where no country is willing to take him in, despite the court order (for his release)," Bagilishema's French defence counsel told Hirondelle by 'phone from France on Tuesday. Bagilishema was the first Rwandan genocide suspect before the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to be acquitted on all charges, on June 7th this year. The court ordered his immediate release, but then, at the request of the prosecution which said it would appeal,imposed conditions for his liberation. According to the court order, 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 that these conditions were met in France on June 11th, only three days after the court order. However, a request to the French authorities was rejected after several weeks of waiting for a response. No reason was given. Bagilishema's lawyer said he had subsequently asked the ICTR Registrar to approach two Scandinavian countries, but their response had also been negative. Asked if the court's conditions had been fulfilled there, he replied that this had not been the case. "Unfortunately we are not in a position at the moment to be able to fulfil the conditions in any country other than France," Roux told Hirondelle. That was why, he said, Bagilishema's defence team had asked the ICTR Registry to exert pressure on France to reconsider its decision. Roux said he hoped France would change its mind, but admitted that in any case this would take time. He said that every day that passes is another day of "abnormal detention" for Bagilishema, who has been declared a free man but is still in isolated UN custody. "He is still under the mandate of the Registrar, who really cannot do anything else," says Roux. "The Tribunal itself is not directly responsible, but rather the (UN) member states. "Asked what he could do, Roux said that as well as asking the Registrar to exert pressure, he was also asking for the Tribunal to invoke Article 28 of its Statute and refer to the UN Security Council to oblige member states to cooperate with it. It was abnormal, he said, that those who had created the ICTR Statute had not provided for what should happen in the case of an acquittal. "My hope is that if the matter is referred to the Security Council, the Council will also take the opportunity to revise the Statute and make provision for such cases," he told Hirondelle. "I think that all democrats and all people concerned with human rights should be concerned about thisabsence (of provisions for the case of acquittal). "With one UN member state (Italy) also refusing to carry out an ICTR-requested arrest, Roux said that: "I think UN member states are not giving the Tribunal the full means to carry out its judicial policy. If we believe in the Tribunal, we have to do that. "Prosecutor's appealICTR Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte meanwhile filed on July 9th a notice of appeal against Bagilishema's acquittal. It is unclear whether she can be considered to have met the 30-day deadline for appeal. Bagilishema had been charged with seven counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. The prosecution alleged that he had helped plan and execute massacres of Tutsis in the commune of Mabanza (Kibuye prefecture) in western Rwanda, of which he was mayor. However, the court found by a majority of two to one that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. Speaking after the judgement on June 7th, Del Ponte's spokeswoman Florence Hartmann told the press that the Prosecutor was confident of her evidence, but that it had been presented badly in court. "Mrs Del Ponte is aware that the evidence was not presented by the trial teams as well as it could have been," said Hartmann. "And as you know, the contract of the senior Trial Attorney (in charge of the case) was not renewed. "Del Ponte says she is appealing the acquittal on three grounds: that the Trial Chamber erred in law and in fact in concluding that Bagilishema was not responsible for crimes committed at a roadblock ("Trafipro") near his communal offices; that the Chamber erred in law by admitting the "confession" statements to Rwandan authorities of three prosecution witnesses currently in jail in Rwanda; and that it also erred in law and in fact in the way it assessed the evidence concerning crimes at the Trafipro roadblock and Kibuye stadium. "The grounds of appeal are not well-founded," said Roux in reaction to the appeal notice, "and the Prosecutor would have done better to drop it. " He said he thought the prosecution was being "unreasonably stubborn" in its legal pursuit of Bagilishema. Asked if he thought the appeal might disqualify on the grounds that it had not been lodged in time, he replied that: "Indeed, I think we are going to pose some questions of whether this appeal is admissible, both in terms of the date it was filed and its form. "JC/MBR/FH (BS0717e)