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ICTR/PROSECUTION - INTERVIEW OF STEPHEN RAPP, ICTR HEAD OF PROSECUTIONSArusha, December 30th 2006 (FH) - Mr. Stephen Rapp, Head of Prosecutions at the Prosecutor Bureau of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has granted Hirondelle Agency an interview before he leaves for the Special Court for Sierra Leone where he is to take office as prosecutor. In his New Year message, the Prosecutor says 2007 will be « the most challenging » year, do you think the Office of the Prosecutor is ready? I do. In January will open the trial of the sixtieth defendant. Only 9 accused remain in detention pending trial in Arusha. Our teams will call the best possible witnesses. But it is getting more and more difficult as time goes by. Eye witnesses forget the details of what happened, they get sick or sometimes die. This happened in the trial of Mpambara; our key witness died before he could testify. It is hard to find new witnesses with enough strength. However, I totally deny the allegation made by some defense attorneys that certain witnesses make false testimonies and make up stories. Our first interviews with most of the witnesses we have date back to the 1990s. After that, we conducted interviews concerning cases the targets of which we had chosen with the Rwandan authorities. Now, there are the gacaca trials. A witness who goes before a gacaca court will confront his testimony with others made by members of the community; people tend to tell what they hear about such and such event rather than what they saw. This is particularly true in Rwanda where this collective memory exists. It is virtually impossible to avoid the blending of these stories. You have to bring them back what to what they exactly remember. The Prosecutor wants to call witnesses who will say the truth. Sometimes there are contradictions, but most of the time; it is possible to make their versions compatible. Your departure coincides with the reopening before the Appeals Chamber of the Media trial in which you’ve led the prosecution team. The defense of Ferdinand Nahimana notably blames the judges for not having taken his absence from the RTLM after April 6th in consideration. The Appeals Chamber will settle the issue. The Prosecutor has filed his account and the hearing is scheduled for the third week of January. I wouldn’t want to discuss the appeal outside the Appeals Chamber. But the chamber has determined that Ferdinand Nahimana had all the time retained control of the RTLM. The judges have concluded that Nahimana had been to the RTLM two or three days after the crash of the plane when he took refuge in the French Embassy. Then, when he was in Bujumbura in the middle of April, he defended the radio. After that on April 25th, he was in Cyangugu where he was interviewed on Radio Rwanda and praised the RTLM for its achievements. During his mission in Europe with Barayagwiza, he explained how he would move the radio from Kigali to Gisenyi. Finally, he complied with the request of the French leaders of the Operation Turquoise to put an end to the attacks of the RTLM against Dallaire; the radio stopped airing its calls to attack. After the trial, we received Bagaragaza and Serugendo’s testimonies; they would have helped the prosecution but the evidences presented during the trial were sufficient. About these two and several others men, can we say that you have encouraged the procedure of guilty plea during your time as head prosecutor? My number one goal was to obtain both acknowledgment of guilt and cooperation, which is very useful since some still contest the genocide. But each of the seven had a different role. Some are the true insiders; they have the capacity to light up the dark corners. Others can only confirm the reality of the genocide and their own participation to it. It can also get out of hands, like when Uwilingiyimana was found dead in a canal in Brussels. What happened? Uwingiyimana was lighting up the dark when he was killed. It was his desire to stay out, to not be publicly prosecuted and arrested, but to cooperate instead and provide information to the ICTR to help his own case. We are still cooperating to the Belgian investigation, we have some information but we cannot reach a conclusion or talk about it. Are you still in contact with Rwandan witnesses living in Belgium? We have kept contact with witnesses in this country with the agreement of the Belgian authorities. What about the plans of trials transfers to Europe? Our relations with Belgium are good, and we are in contact with the Belgian prosecution, notably concerning the case of Ephrem Nkezabera. The Prosecutor has transferred the case directly to the Belgian prosecution in 2004. And there are the other cases for which we cooperate a lot. We have very good relations. As to The Netherlands, we filed a request on December 12th for the transfer of Michel Bagaragaza. Of course, it will depend on the judgment of the chamber in charge. It is presided by Judge Khalida Khan, Judge Sergei Egorov and Judge Inés Weinberg de Roca. The Dutch authorities have never tried a foreigner for genocide but they think their criminal code allows it. They wish they can accept this case and make sure he is condemned, that’s why they asked us to add war crimes to the two other charges he faces, genocide and complicity. Our contacts with France have been amiable. The Prosecutor will decide in the first months of 2007 what should be done next. In this country, last month, Judge Bruguière has concluded his investigation; will it help the Tribunal ? The prosecutor has brought up the topic of the allegations against the RPF before the Security Council in New York and said that decisions would be made in 2007. But concerning the attack against the plane, he shares the opinion of all his predecessors since Louise Harbor. The focus of this Tribunal is the attacks against civilians, the massacres of civilians, the genocide, the assassination of thousands of Tutsis and Hutus. We can’t focus on crimes against militaries as they do at the ICTY where several indictments have been established pertaining to the treatment of prisoners of war. In the attack against the plane, the targets were the military leaders. It was not a crime against humanity. Some suggested that it qualified as terrorism as war crime. But terrorism is a crime and civilians are the target. As a Chief of State and General-major, he was not a civilian. The Tribunal was established because of the genocide, not for murders in the context of a civil war. Furthermore, the Prosecution bureau hasn’t received Judge Bruguière’s report yet. Concerning the RPF, the rumor is that the three sealed indictments that have been publicly announced are against RPF leaders and that once they have been issued and the men arrested, they may be transferred and tried in Rwanda. Can you confirm?I do not know about these indictments which have been decided by the Prosecutor but concerning the transfers, I can tell you they will be proceeded to with respect to the accused and the witnesses/victims, and that every trial will be conducted fairly with both these points of view. PB/MG © Hirondelle News Agency