Arusha, March 14, 2002 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has no immediate plans to open an office in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Tribunal's spokesman Nigerian, Kingsley Moghalu said on Tuesday. Moghalu was reacting to media reports that the Congolese Minister for Foreign Affairs had proposed in a letter to the ICTR Registrar, Senegalese Adama Dieng, that the Tribunal opens an office in the DRC.

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In the letter dated May 10th, the Congolese Minister Léonard She Okitundu proposed that in order to enhance cooperation between the ICTR and the DRC he was inviting the Tribunal authorities to examine the possibility of the installation of an office in the country and specifically in the capital city Kinshasa. Okitundu said the proposal was a follow up to a visit by the ICTR Registrar to the DRC last February during which he solicited the cooperation of the country's authorities in the arrest and transfer to Arusha, of Rwandans suspected of genocide crimes who are hiding in the DRC. The ICTR Registrar visited the DRC from February 12th - 16th as part of a drive to enhance cooperation of the Central Africa States with the Tribunal. Dieng met with the President of the DRC Joseph Kabila on February 15th and the Congolese leader assured him of his government's co-operation with the Tribunal, according to information from the ICTR. In his reaction, Moghalu said that the Tribunal did not have to open an office in the DRC for the country to fulfill its obligation to cooperate with the Tribunal. "If they hand over the people we think this will help," said Moghalu. He added that the ICTR expected cooperation from the DRC and expeditious arrest and handing over of suspects in the country. He also said there were suspects in Congo Brazzaville. "We believe they are a significant number," he said adding that the Tribunal is looking for suspects in these two countries. In February, the ICTR Registrar also visited the Republic of Congo where he met in the Congolese capital Brazaville, the Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister Rodolphe Adada. According to the ICTR some individuals suspected of involvement in the Rwanda genocide fled to the DRC and that their presence there has contributed to the conflict in that country. The Lusaka Peace Accords of 1999 on the conflict in DRC provided for the handing over to the Tribunal of combatants in that conflict who participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In his letter Congolese Minister Okitundu stated that the installation of an office in the DRC would be beneficial to the Tribunal. He also said that the proposal would involve his government in seeing to it that justice was accorded to the victims of the Rwanda genocide. Okitundu also said the gesture demonstrated the good will and quest for transparency on the part of the DRC government in the process of disarming armed groups. The letter was copied to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, the ICTR Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte and the ICTR President Judge Navanethem Pillay. SW/FH (DRC-0514e)