Arusha, 29 January 2008 (FH) - Judge Lloyd George Williams known for his attentive details and love of law and who devoted a good part of his life to public and international service, succumbed to cancer on January 16 in his native home of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Caribbean, aged 80. He will be laid to rest on wednesday 30.

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His last assignment was at the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) trying suspects of 1994 genocide and will go down into history as bold and among pioneering judges of an international justice system.

One among many of his decisions which comes quickly to mind before he resigned on grounds of "personal reasons" in February 2004 was the "Cyangugu Judgement", which implicated three top senior officers of Rwanda.

The late judge, who presided over the case, however, in an established decision making system of the tribunal accepted the majority ruling of his other two bench colleagues in the judgement, although he did not agree to it.

He specifically disagreed over the acquittal of one accused Emmanuel Bagambiki, a former mayor of Cyangugu, south-west of Rwanda.

"I am dissenting from the majority view as expressed in the judgment, which absolves Bagambiki from criminal responsibility...I hold that he cannot be absolved of responsibility for his actions, nor for his responsibility as the highest ranking civil authority in Cyangugu Prefecture," he wrote separately, and highlighted events which forced him to differ with his co-judges-Yakov Ostrovsky (Russia) and Pavel Dolenc (Slovenia). Ostrovsky and Dolenc have completed their contracts and have returned to their respective homes.

The acquittal renewed tension between Kigali and the UN Court.

Bagambiki now resides in Belgium, but the Rwandan government has not given up. Kigali intends to prosecute the former mayor over a charge of rape and has lined him up in their wanted list.

According to UN estimates approximately 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the April-July massacres, one of the worst forms of human killings observed in the 2Ist century.

The other acquitted in the trial was Andre Ntagerura (former Transport minister during the genocide) .A former Rwandan army (FAR) officer, Samuel Imanishimwe was sentenced to 27 years imprisonment (but the sentence was later reduced to 12 years following an appeal).

"Judge Williams was a consummate judge and gentleman. His approach to the work of the Tribunal exemplified his integrity and sincerity and his judgments clearly demonstrated his commitment to ensuring a fair trial even in the face of allegations of horrific crimes, "remarked Matthew Carlson, who worked very closely with the late Judge as part of Trial Chamber III's legal staff during his first two years at the Tribunal from 2002 to 2004.

"He approached each decision with an open mind, but his unwavering sense of right and wrong was his ultimate guide," concludes Carlson.

The late judge is also mourned by his successor, Judge Dennis Byron, who actually had the privilege of meeting the deceased on 17 December at his home on Frigate Bay St Kitts.

"He was surrounded by his wife Cynthia, his daughter and son. At that time, his bearing, incisive conversation and good humour did not foretell that sad news of his passing away last week," recounts Judge Byron, who is also from St Kitts and Nevis, and the current President of the ICTR.

Judge Byron was elected by the UN General Assembly to replace Judge Williams in 2004.

"He [Williams] had an outstanding career of service in law. In his practice as Director of Public Prosecution before the courts, he was a master of forensic advocacy and was regarded as an outstanding criminal lawyer," said Judge Byron, adding that on the bench, he earned the reputation of being strict on the maintenance of order and discipline in the court room.

He adds:" His judgements were sound and well respected and it was fitting that his final stint of service was to the International criminal justice system."

The ICTR Spokesman, Roland Amossouga on behalf of the Registrar Adama Dieng, told reporters :"Judge Williams had dedicated his life to justice for his fellow human beings......we have lost one of the ICTR's key contributors in shaping an international justice system"

At the ICTR, the late judge made quite an impact both professionally and on the staff where he was much liked and had a large body of friends.

His close associates say that the tall and slim Judge was a delightful person. He always made time when someone sought for his advice.

One of the first things he did after coming to Tanzania is to walk around Mt Kilimanjaro, and managed at 73 years old to reach the second step.

He loved to take an evening walk when time allowed and was known for his intensive reading into late hours, at times past midnight.

Judge Williams was elected to the ICTR by the United Nations General Assembly in November 1998, and was re-elected in January 2003.

He was born in June 1927 and began his career as Barrister-at-Law in 1959 in England. He later practiced in Jamaica before becoming Director of Public Prosecutions in Antigua from 1978 to 1982 and Solicitor General in 1982.

From 1983 to 1992 he was High Court Judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1981 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for distinguished service in the field of law.

© Hirondelle News Agency