Arusha, August 19, 2002 (FH) - The withdrawal of the arrest warrant against ex-commander of the defunct prestigious Rwandan military academy, Ecole Supérieure Militaire(ESM), Léonidas Rusatira, by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday has tightened the deadlock between Rwanda and the tribunal, says observers. "It's a decision that really surprised us", reacted Rwandan minister of Justice, Jean de Dieu Mucyo on the state radio, Radio Rwanda.

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"I'm wondering whether this is the appropriate time to free Rusatira", said the minister adding that, " Either there has been some pressure, or else, there is another reason. . Anyway, this goes to show the incompetence of the tribunal. Either the prosecutor doesn't know her case or else there has been some pressure"Rusatira was an officer in the former Rwandan national army. He was integrated in the new army that took over after the 1994 genocide. He fled Rwanda in 1996 and was arrested in May by Belgium on an ICTR indictment. Several human rights organisations have criticised the ICTR for arresting Rusatira on crimes for which he risked his life to halt. Following a "moratorium" observed on the "witness crisis" since the beginning of August, the relations between Rwanda and the ICTR have been quite cordial. Mucyo's remarks however vividly highlight the profound disagreement that has existed between Rwanda and the ICTR over the last eight months. Trouble began in January when genocide survivor's organisations called on their members to cut co-operation with the ICTR. The organisations notably accused the ICTR of 'harassing' witnesses during cross-examination and harbouring genocide suspects employed by defence teams as investigators. The controversy took another turn when the government of Rwanda sided with the genocide survivor's organisations and introduced new travel requirements, branded 'obstructive' by the ICTR, for witnesses travelling from Rwanda to the ICTR. After the government of Rwanda refused to comply with orders of the ICTR regarding witnesses' travel, ICTR prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, and the tribunal's president, Navanethem Pillay, separately complained to the Security Council. No known formal debate has been held on the subject. The government of Rwanda strongly reacted to the accusations saying that the tribunal was a body troubled by its own "corruption, incompetence and nepotism". Analysts say that the underlying cause of friction is the eminent pursuit, for war crimes, of members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA, the current Rwandan army). In late 2001, Carla Del Ponte announced that she would soon indict some members of the RPA. Rwanda then accused the prosecutor of succumbing to "pressure" from "certain governments". Governments that Rwanda accuses of holding an ideology of "'ethnic-balance justice' and revisionism"In an August 08, 2002 letter to the Security Council, Judge Pillay denied all allegations from Rwanda. "There is no problem of mismanagement at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. While the tribunal faced management problems in its start-up phase in 1996, those problems have been progressively addressed through management reforms. The tribunal is now an efficiently managed institution. ", she said. The South African judge further said that the reforms had been acknowledged by competent organs of the UN and Rwanda it self. Even if the arrest last week in Angola of former Rwandan army chief of staff, General Augustin Bizimungu, "delighted" Kigali, the minister of foreign affairs, André Bumaya watered down the party declaring that "the government of Rwanda would have preferred that Bizimungu be extradited to Rwanda instead of the ICTR. ""Trying him in Rwanda would make a lot of impact", he said. "It would serve as a lesson and would affirm our policy of reconciliation and national unity", he added. Despite all the satisfaction that the two parties may have obtained, the cause of the stand-off remains crucial. AT/GG/FH(RS-0819a)