11.02.08 - RWANDA/SPAIN - LAWYER: SPANISH CASE ‘IS NOT A EUROPEAN CAUSE AGAINST ETHNIC TUTSIS'

Brussels, 11 February 2008 (FH) - Jordi Palou-Loverdos, counsel for the plaintiffs over the arrest warrants issued last week by a Spanish judge against 40 officers of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RDF), claimed Friday that the case "is not a European cause against ethnic Tutsis".
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Mr Palou-Loverdos, who chaired a press conference, said that both Hutu and Tutsis witnesses would testify in the case.

The Spanish judge alleges that the suspects committed crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and terrorism between 1 October 1990 and up to the end of 2002.

Present during the press conference, supporting the civil parties, the Belgian researcher Filip Reyntjens added that "Spain has no past in Rwanda, neither colonial, nor commercial. All that Spain had were missionaries ".

The assassination of Spanish priests has been the source of the criminal complaint.

Questioned, the lawyer affirms that the civil parties are family members of the victims, but that no religious organization supports the criminal complaint.

"We await the international co-operation of states, but also of the international civil society. Today, the majority of the suspects are in Rwanda. And article 25 of the Rwandan constitution prohibits the
extradition of a suspect by Kigali'', he said.

"But other suspects are not in Rwanda", he added, referring to the case of Colonel Rugumya Gacinya, military attache of the Rwandan Embassy in the United States, who should be delivered by the American authorities.

As for General Karake Karenzi, number two of the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), he would currently be the subject of an administrative investigation by the UN, following, in particular, protests by Human Rights Watch.

Reyntjens gave a more political resonance to the Spanish investigation and to the arrest warrants. "What must be the position of a partner country of Rwanda, who must shake the hand of President Kagame?" he asked.

The Belgian researcher then challenged the ICTR prosecutor, Hassan Bubacar Jallow.

"This is obviously cumbersome for the ICTR. The ICTR has the same evidence as the Spanish judge. The special investigation team, which works in Kigali, but which has to rely on Arusha for safety reasons, led a thorough investigation on forty sites.

"But we all know that the prosecutor does not dare. His predecessor, Carla Del Ponte, was pushed aside from a part of her mandate".he alleged.

The Swiss attorney had opened an investigation in June 2001 for the crimes committed by the RPF in 1994.

But in August 2003, reportedly under the Rwandan pressured, the UN Security Council split into two the position of prosecutor: one in charge of the tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and anther for the former Yugoslavia(ICTY).

Carla Del Ponte was able, according to her statements, to include in the Security Council Resolution a subparagraph forcing the new prosecutor(Jallow) to continue the investigations engaged against the RPF.

"Mr. Jallow has been announcing since 2003 that they are studying the evidence. He once again repeated this chorus two months ago. But the tribunal must end its first instance trials by the end of the year, it is thus not very probable that he will issue indictments.", he stressed.

For Palou-Loverdos, ICTR qualified to try the Spanish case, if it decides so.

"The Spanish judge must continue to investigate, but if the ICTR decides to request the case, Spanish government will have to transfer it to Arusha", he explained, who also confirmed that the Rwandan authorities had contacted the Spanish government, during the investigation, to obtain a Spanish status quo.

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