The Hague, 7 September 2007 (FH) - In "Peace and Punishment", Florence Hartmann, former spokesperson for Carla del Ponte, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, states how on pressure from the United States the special investigations targeting suspects from the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) were buried forever, sullying the legacy of the ICTR.

3 min 38Approximate reading time

In this book, which will be available 10 September in France, from Flammarion editions, Hartmann tells how in August 2003, Carla del Ponte was pushed aside by the United Nations Security Council from the position of prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, only preserving her prerogatives on its Yugoslavian counterpart.

In New York, the former French journalist asserts, the entry into the millennium signed the end of the ad hoc tribunals, the one for the former Yugoslavia as for the one for Rwanda were summoned to finish their work and to close their doors in the decade.

For the Americans, writes the author, it was "to ensure the support of their Rwandan allies for closing the Tribunal in Arusha, even if it is far from finishing trying the notables of Hutu power, instigators of the 1994 genocide (...) At the announcement, in November 2001, of a fast closure to the tribunal, the Rwandan authorities protested, considering the idea premature. But President Paul Kagamé is not difficult to convince. Carla del Ponte opened in December 1999 investigations against Tutsi officers from the Army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) that Kagamé commanded"

In Kigali, Kagamé "estimates that his men do not have to explain themselves to the justice of an international community which let Tutsis be massacre. Pierre-Richard Prosper (American prosecutor at the ICTR who will later become American ambassador for war crimes) promises that the closing of the ICTR will put a term to these investigations which disturb him", writes Florence Hartmann. In spring 2003, Washington turned up the pressure. American ambassador for war crimes, Prosper tries to generate an agreement between Kigali and the ICTR prosecutor.

If the manoeuvre had not been a secret for a while, the author describes the details. "Wednesday 14 May 2003, in late afternoon, in an elegant conference room of the State Department (...) del Ponte and her advisers take a seat around a table, facing the Rwandan delegation. At the end of the table, Pierre Prosper plays the master of ceremonies. He interferes and suggests the major debating points"

Carla del Ponte accuses Kigali of obstruction. "The Rwandans replied that the prosecution is far from achieving its mandate. In evidence, they prepared a diskette comprising three hundred and fifty names of high ranking persons allegedly involved in the genocide against which the ICTR has not yet opened an investigation". The negotiations restart the following day. "The message is clear: The ICTR cannot legitimate investigations against Tutsi soldiers as it is far from completing its work on the genocide. The Rwandans do not deny the crimes but dispute with whomever, and in particular with the international community, the right to prosecute the members of its army. They say they want to take care of it (...) Prosper intervenes on several occasions to encourage the prosecutor to yield the special investigations in Rwanda. The magistrate is pushed to let the Rwandans have parallel investigations, but wants to keep control of the conclusions of the RPA case. Prosper leans in favour of Rwanda, which wants to keep control on the investigations and the prosecution against its officers".

But the author writes that the discussions ran into the refusal of the Swiss woman who receives, in July, in The Hague, a draft agreement. "Del Ponte pushes back the document from the hand and leaves it to her advisers to inform Prosper of her refusal to subscribe to it. On her part, she informs Kofi Annan's cabinet, who condemns the American manoeuvre but objects to the fact that del Ponte let herself be exposed to the pressure from a country", writes Hartmann.

The Security Council then instructs the prosecutor to stop her investigations at the end of 2004. In exchange of the suspension of prosecution, the Americans obtain from Kigali the signature of a bilateral agreement ensuring impunity of its own soldiers before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The American congress lifts the embargo on weapons and approves a military aid agreement.

In August 2003, New York approved the resolution relieving Carla del Ponte by assigning to the ICTR a specific prosecutor. Hassan Bubacar Jallow took the head of the prosecution. In November 2003, as New York debated over the text which would result in the resolution of 26 March 2004 on the "completion strategy" of the ad hoc tribunals, Pierre-Richard Prosper reassured President Kagamé. "He convinced him not to worry about the text of the future resolution since Gambian Hassan Bubacar Jallow, named at the beginning of September to succeed del Ponte, ratified the promise of the United States to the Rwandan authorities on the abandonment of prosecution against the Tutsi soldiers by the ICTR."

Also weakened in her renewal at the head of the prosecution for the ICTY, several voices rose up at the Security Council to limit her mandate to one year. Carla del Ponte had not produced any indictment against the RPA, which would however have enabled her to bind the prosecution to her investigations.

For the last four years, Hassan Bubacar Jallow has explained that he consults the evidence boxes left by the investigators of Carla del Ponte, who had managed to investigate into certain massacres sites in the north of Rwanda, and answers invariably that he will make a decision on this subject. Florence Hartman's book cast doubt on the ICTR's willingness to do something with the RPA case.

©Hirondelle News Agency