Arusha, 21 May 2008 (FH) - The three Chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have slowed down during the past year, according to a Hirondelle Agency source, as the President of the Tribunal is on the verge of presenting his assessment before the UN Security Council in June.

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During the past year, ending 30 April, according to calculations in possession of Hirondelle, the three ICTR Chambers sat almost 4,000 hours whereas, during the same period of the previous year, they had sat approximately 4,500 hours.

For the first four months of this year, compared to those of 2007, the reduction in activity was approximately 25 per cent, which has been attributed to the fact that many trials are in the deliberation phase.

Important trials are also at the defence phase and this was proving to be difficult, pointed out observers.

Indeed, contrary to the prosecution which could easily find witnesses in Rwanda and particularly in the prisons where the authorities facilitated the work of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), the defence lawyers must search the world to find somebody who will agree to come and testify for the defence of former officials accused of 1994 genocide, which according to the UN estimates claimed lives of about 800,000 people mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The decrease in activity also comes from the difficulties that the ICTR is encountering in mobilizing its thousand employees for whom the only perspective is the forthcoming closure of the Tribunal.

By fear of an increase of unproductivity, the officials of the Tribunal, to whom the UN refused the consent of a retention bonus, reduced by six to three months the length of notice to opt out of contracts.

From its creation in 1994 to the end of 2007, the ICTR has cost more than a billion dollars and has tried 35 people.

About thirty are awaiting judgments, but six still wait to be tried; and 13 are still at large, including the alleged financier of the genocide, Felicen Kabuga.

The Security Council has ordered that all first instance trials must be completed by the end of this year and 2010 for the Appeals.

Already two trials-Butare of six defendants and trial of three top former ruling MRND party leaders -- are expected to go beyond this year without any decision having been taken for the defendants on standby.

And should the requests for referrals be denied and the Tribunal be allocated the responsibility to try these cases, there is a possibility that such additional cases will not be disposed of by December 2008.


© Hirondelle News Agency