31.01.08 - ICTR/VISIT - TOP UN OFFICIAL VISITS ICTR

Arusha, 31 January, 2008(FH)- The United Nations Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Mr Nicolas Machel, Wednesday made a one-day tour of the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), trying key suspects of the 1994 genocide.
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According to the spokesman of the tribunal, Mr Roland Amoussouga, the tour was to familiriase Mr Machel with activities of the UN Court ,which was approaching its closing strategy for first instance trials by end of the year as ordered by the Security Council.

He visited the ICTR's holding cells on the outskirts of Arusha town and also attended a court session.

At the UN Special Detention Facility(UNDF), Mr Machel also spoke to one accused and was briefed of its operations by the prison's commander, Mr Saidou Guindo. There are 55 detainees in Arusha.

Mr Machel also held talks with the ICTR President Mr Dennis Byron, Registrar Mr Adama Dieng,Deputy Prosecutor Mr Bongani Majola and other senior staff of the tribunal.

According to sources, the visit would help UN make appropriate decisions over the large investments made in creating high-tech court rooms,expertise and experience gained in running the post second-world war's
first international adhoc tribunal to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The tribunal, which was established in November 1994, but effectively started its work half a year later, has in its payroll about 1000 staff at its two offices in Arusha and Kigali.

The tribunal has rendered 34 judgements, including five acquittals.Currently 28 detainees are on trial, five are awaiting their cases to start and 19 convicted persons are waiting transfers to serve their sentences.

The tribunal has yet to arrest 14 key suspects, who are on the run, including Felician Kabuga, who is said to have financed 1994 killings.

According to UN estimates, approximately 800,000 people were butchered in the April-July sporadic killings following the shooting down of the plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana near the capital, Kigali on April 6. Also killed in the plane was Burundi's President Cyprian Ntayamira.Both were returning from a regional peace meeting in Dar es Salaam,Tanzania.

Mr Machel was part of the delegation of UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, who visited Kigali, Rwanda on Monday and also toured the ICTR's Kigali offices and met the staff there.

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© Agence Hirondelle