Arusha, 22 May 2007 (FH) – Originating from Saint Kitts and Nevis, a small Carribean state, Judge Dennis Byron, who is reputed for his independence, was elected on Monday evening President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Byron will take up his functions officially on 29 May, succeeding the Norwegian Eric Møse who acted as President since May 2003.
Logically speaking, Byron who is a subject of the English crown, will be the last President of the ICTR, which the Security Council has demanded to close its cases of first instance next year and the cases on appeal two years later.
Executing his work extremely rigrously and meticulously, the strongly build Judge Byron carries his 64 years cheerfully. Being very jovial, he has also gained a certain popularity within the rangs of the ICTR. According to a lawyer who visited the prison last Tuesday even the prisoners themselves greeted his arrival.
While he demands a strict dicipline from the audience, he still allows the parties to express themselves. With his half closed eyes, which sometimes remind you of a crocodile, he does not miss a single exchange and is immidiately alert in case of the slightest misconduct. The offender thus knows quickly how to behave.
Before becoming the head of the Tribunal, Judge Byron, who acted as President of a Trial Chamber, was responsible for at least two judicial decisions which surprised oberservers and sometimes even irritated or offended certain people in charge within the Tribunal.
In May 2006, a Chamber which he presided became renowned for the rejection of the first demand for the transferral of an accused of the ICTR to a national jurisdiction.
In this case, the Office of the Prosecutor asked for the authorisation of the judges to have the former director of the tea production network in Rwanda, Michel Bagaragaza, as key witness against other accussed facing Norwegian justice.
The demand was rejected entirely, because the Scandinavian Kingdom does not curb explicitly the crime of genocide, one of the crimes brought against the former economic official.
The decision surprised everyone at the Court, even more so because it was a joint request of the Prosecutor and the accused.
Although the latter appealed to this decision, the appeal was rejected.
Last September, another panel of judges presided by Byron made an unpublished decision in the judgement of the Ex-Minister for primary and secondary Education, André Rwamakuba.
In its aquittal verdict, the Chamber pronounced a sort of condamnation against the Registrar for leaving the Ex-Minister without a lawyer during his first months in custody.
The judgement underligns that Rwamakuba is free to plead before the same Chamber for reparation for this violation of his rights. After the request, the Chamber ordered the administration of the Tribunal last January, to pay 2.000 Dollar to the aquitted. Dreading the consequences of such a precedent, the Registrar has asked the Appeals Chamber which has not yet rendered a decision.
Before joining the ICTR in July 2004, Judge Byron was President of the of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. In 2002 he received the the award of Knight Bachelor by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
At the ICTR he presiding judge in two cases in the moment. Since September 2005 he sits in the case against three national leaders of the former party of the Rwandan President, the National Movement for Democray and Development (MRND), a case that has been delayed by the illness of a judge, the experiments of the Prosecution and the pugnancy of the Defense.
Those who are not yet convinced of his dynamism wait to judge him after the recommencement of this case. Even if the tribulations which risks to extend the calendar of the Tribunal started long before Judge Byron took up the file.
© Hirondelle News Agency