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Arusha, 22 May 2007 (FH) – Through the election of Dennys Byron on Monday after the rejection of a modification of the rules and proceedures which would have allowed the extension of the mandat of Eric Møse, the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have conspiciously choosen the rules of law.

According to the recommendations of the United Nations Secretary General who created the Tribunal in 1994, three months after the genocide, it shall finish the cases of first instance on 31 December 2008. At different occassions, Judge Møse (Norway) has assured the General Assembly of the United Nations at their reunion in New York that the deadline would be respected.

Elected for the first time in 2003 and re-elected in 2005, the Norwegian judge has in fact made the Tribunal more dynamic. The ICTR which was criticised for a long time for its inaction has find its rhythm of regular judgements and its 1000 employees are very much in demand. A “completion strategy” was put in place based on the transfer of accused with 7 or 8 persons still to be judged.

Since its creation the Tribunal has judged 33 persons, 27 are still on trial. A total of 72 persons have been arrested while 18 are still on the run. The transfer of accused to national jurisdictions, including Rwanda, is foreseen.

After two succesif mandats, Judge Møse was theoretically not allowed to represent himself as a candidate, but a number of the judges who are authorized to modify the rules, sugessted a modification of the rules. This would have allowed him in case of a re-election to keep his post “for less than two years” in order to finish his completion strategy.

Hearing this proposition, Judge Dennys Byron (St Kitts and Nevis), whose moral personality became imperative since his arrival in 2003, adressed each of the other judges last week with a memorandum of four pages denouncing this project worthy of “African dictatorship”. During the whole week meetings and discussions took place, notably with the arrival of the judges of the Appeals Chamber.

In their plenary meeting on Monday afternoon, the jurists and the main responsables of the ICTR listened to a diatribe, which some qualified as “vehemently” of Judge Byron, who denounced an implication of politics in international justice. A number of other judges gave their approvals. In the following the proposed modification of the rules was withdrawn. After a consensus was reached, all judges honoured the achievements of Judge Møse.

Thus the ICTR which has lost credibility in the past after sometimes surprising international law decisions, has find a certain orthodoxy. Other supporters of Judge Byron who are more prosaic and financially interrested, see in his arrival the hope for an extension of the work of the Tribunal beyond 31 December 2008.

At the end of 2007, the ICTR will have cost the international community one billion American Dollars. The budget for 2008 is already approved by the donating countries, notably the United States, but the budget for 2009 has not yet been decided although the administration of the Tribunal has prepared it.
Every six months, the Presidents of the ad hoc tribunals (Rwanda and ex Yugoslavia) have to present their results to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The next session which is scheduled for next June will be the first test for a President elected by unanimity but also by surprise.

© Hirondelle News Agency