17.04.08 (FH)  - The new Registrar of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), Ms Slyvana Arbia, granted an exclusive interview to independent Hirondelle News Agency over her vision of the global court and her work as the Chief of Prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) before assuming her new post last week. The Arusha-based ICTR is trying key suspects of the 1994 genocide. The excerpts...

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Q. What is the first thing that you have in your mind to do at the ICC?

A. The staffing table review in order to fill vacancies and enhance projects which will be necessary for a successful management of the court, ensuring also the most efficient and modern organization of the court management services with particular focus on the first trial that will start this year [Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of the Democratic Republic of Congo , who is charged with enlisting, conscripting and using child soldiers, is expected to be the first to be put on trial], involving for the first time in the history of the international criminal justice, the participation of the victims.

Q. Do you think that your ICTR experience will contribute to strengthen ICC activities?

A. Obviously I do. Not only my ICTR experience will be an asset for the ICC, but also my experience as prosecutor of international crimes will facilitate the implementation of the Registrar's duties in respect of the victims.

Q. During your stay of about nine years at ICTR what are the most memorable things which you achieved or wished to have achieved?

A. As Senior Trial Attorney, I had prepared 12 indictments which all have been confirmed. I had been in charge of 22 pre-trail cases. I led the biggest case, Butare case, including the unique case of a woman charged with international crimes before the International criminal justice, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, former Minister for Family and Women, whose testimony has engaged my efforts for about 40 days.

I had led the case of Athanase Seromba, the first catholic priest tried in Arusha [and convicted for life]. I also had spent a lot of efforts in convincing Italy to sign and ratify an agreement with the ICTR for the enforcement of the ICTR sentences, in order to permit Georges Ruggiu (Italian-Belgium journalist sentenced to 12 years in prison) and other convicted persons, to serve their sentence in Italy.

I would like to see the end of Butare trial [which started in 2001] and to contribute in making ICTR justice more comprehensive. [The other defendants in the Butare trial are the former governors, Alphonse Nteziryayo and Sylvain Nsabimana, former mayors Elie Ndayambaje and Joseph Kanyabashi and Arsene Ntahobali, former militia leader who is the son of Minister NyiramasuhukoThe six, accused of crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity, have pleaded not guilty. Butare is a region in the southern Rwanda from where the accused are hailing]

Q. How do you see the closure of ICTR before all the trials are completed?

A. The UN Security Council strategy for the completion of the ICTR mandate has created in my view additional limitations to the prosecutions. A lot of work for the preparation of trials has been frustrated because of those limitations. That could involve serious risks of inadequate action against the impunity, especially because most national jurisdictions are not able or not willing to prosecute ICTR cases. It is my view that before taking such a decision the Security Council should have ensured actions aimed at making the national jurisdiction ready for a transition.

Q. How do you see the role of ICC in rendering international justice?

A. In spite of the assumption that each State party should not only sign and ratify the ICC Statute, but also to adapt its legislation and prepare Its judiciary for effectively prosecuting and fairly trying persons who are allegedly responsible of international crimes, there is a general reluctance to seriously deal with international crimes at the national level, so the existence of the ICC becomes essential especially in the areas where the judiciary is not effectively independent from other public powers.

Q. What is your message for your colleagues at the ICTR?

A. My message is the following: Work hard, keeping the necessary motivation independently from the results and never deviate from the ethics, because whatever we are doing or we have done in the ICTR is not our own product, but is a part of the international criminal justice which will continue permanently due to the existence of the ICC.

© Hirondelle News Agency