Arusha, February 1, 2008(FH)- The visiting United Nations Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Mr Nicolas Michel, has commended the work of the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in promoting international criminal and humanitarian law.

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The ICTR was established to try key suspects of 1994 Rwandan genocide, which according to UN estimates claimed lives of about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

It is the first international adhoc tribunal in post second World War to try genocide accused persons.

In his address to the legal staff on Wednesday, Mr Michel said that ICTR has played an important role in fighting the culture of impunity in the world and "has developed a strong body of dynamic and talented lawyers and judicial expertise, which are true assets for the UN organization and for its future contribution to national judicial capacity building efforts."

Mr Michel, accompanied by the Registrar Mr Adama Dieng and other senior officials, was given a guided tour of the Special UN Detention Facility located on the outskirts of Arusha and later attended a court hearing at the UN Court's premises, according to a press release issued by the ICTR.

During his one-day visit, Mr Michel held talks with the ICTR President, Judge Dennis Byron, judges and other senior staff members.

Mr Michel arrived in Arusha from Kigali, Rwanda, where he had accompanied UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on an official visit.

The timing of Mr Michel's visit coincides with the completion strategy of the UN court by end of the year as ordered by the Security Council.

The tribunal has invested heavily in terms of technology and expertise in establishing the international court some 13 years ago. Although established in November 1994 by the Security Council Resolution 955, the first case only started in January, 1997.

There are four courtrooms fitted with most modern technology and the tribunal boosts of 1,062 staffs (414 professional level posts), 628 (general service). It has a total of 20 judges (nine permanent, nine ad litem and two appeals chamber judges).

Currently eleven trials are in progress involving 27 accused and nine are waiting for their cases to start.

The court has completed 35 cases resulting in 30 convictions (including eight who pleaded guilty) and five acquittals.

© Hirondelle News Agency