Arusha, June 2, 2002 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) finally accepted a proposition by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government to open an office in the country, reports the independent news agency Hirondelle. The Tribunal stated the move would allow the apprehension of as many as possible genocide suspects who are apparently in the Congo region.

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Kinshasa had proposed the idea of an office on May 11th, this year but the Tribunal spokesperson Nigerian Kingsley Moghalu indicated that the ICTR was not in a position to open one. Observers interpreted the response as a rejection of the Congolese proposition. In an interview on Friday morning on Radio Okapi, which is jointly run by Hirondelle Foundation and the United Nations Mission in the DRC, the ICTR Registrar Senegalese Adama Dieng, stated that the position of the Tribunal had been misunderstood. Dieng said that the ICTR budget had just been approved in March and that it was normal for the spokesperson to take precaution. He said it should be taken into consideration that clearly the Tribunal was not rejecting the proposition but it needs to deal with material and financial problems first. The Registrar indicated that the office in DRC would re-enforce the operational capacity of the ICTR on the issue of investigation, arrest and transfer of suspects as well as on the matter of searching for prosecution and defence witnesses living in the DRC. In a letter addressed to the Registrar in May on behalf of the Congolese government, the minister for Foreign Affairs, Léonard She Okitundu, anticipated that the opening of such an office would at a go resolve a number of issues namely: security concerns over Rwanda, enhance Rwandan national reconciliation, logically require the departure of the Rwandan army in the DRC and consequently inspire reconciliation in the region. The Congolese Minister added that in case the people being sought are not in Congo only an international and independent body like the ICTR can address the issue in an impartial manner. He stressed that under those circumstances then Rwandan would no longer under the pretext of security, maintain her troops in his country (DRC). AT/SW/FH (DRC-0602e)