Arusha, 23 May 2008 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has recognised for the first time that it will not be able to meet the deadline of completing all first instance trials by end of December, 2008 as ordered by the Security Council.

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ICTR is trying the key suspects of the 1994 genocide.

According to a draft report submitted to the UN Secretary General at the beginning of the month, the ICTR underscores that it was confronted with two major challenges: the exodus of its more qualified personnel and a growing delay in the transfer of certain cases to national jurisdictions. The report is scheduled to be tabled on 4 June before the Security Council by the ICTR President, Justice Dennis Byron.

The report, whose copy Hirondelle was in possession, notes regrettably that the retention plan for its personnel, which envisaged the granting of bonuses to the employees, was not approved by the Budgetary Committee of the UN, adding that as a result high rate of resignation of essential personnel will continue.

" The Tribunal is requesting the support of the Member States of the UN and reminds that the capacity of the Tribunal to maintain its current level of effectiveness, to even improve it, will depend on a large part on the maintenance of its eminently experienced and highly qualified judges and personnel," cautions the report.

The report also reveals the Tribunal's difficulties in implementing its project to transfer certain cases to national courts.

To date, only two cases have actually been transferred to another country-- Priest Wenceslas Munyeshyaka and the former Governor, Laurent Bucyibaruta, who were already in France, and will be tried there before an Assize Court.

The case of former tea authority boss, Michel Bagaragaza, for whom two transfer decisions-- the first to Norway and the second to The Netherlands-- were cancelled for reasons of jurisdiction of these countries, can be seen as a prediction for the failure of the transfer strategy. Bagaragaza was brought back to Arusha this week.

"It is necessary to consider the possibility that these transfer requests will be rejected and that consequently, it will be necessary to take into account the schedule of the Tribunal four new trials", says the report.

It specifies that the prosecutor considered a certain number of African countries for the possibility of transferring some cases to national courts. However, except for Rwanda, no African country, up to now, has agreed to receive cases that would be transferred by the Tribunal. The prosecutor has filed four transfer requests of defendants to Rwandan courts and the decisions are yet to be rendered.

The Office of Prosecutor (OTP) has already indicated to the UN Member States the difficulties it has in meeting the deadline decided by the Security Council in 2003.

"If new trials open at the Tribunal due to the arrest of other people or because of the impossibility to transfer certain cases to national courts, the OTP will be obligated to re-examine the use of its resources and, if necessary, to plan to obtain additional resources", warns the report.

Regarding 13 key accused who are still at large, the ICTR considers that four of them must be tried before the Tribunal in case of their arrest.

Moreover, the Prosecutor continues to carry out investigations into the cases against the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) for alleged atrocities committed during the 1994 genocide.

The document points that an individual trial takes approximately 10 months and six defendants are still awaiting trial whereas four, who are still at large, have been designed to be tried before the Tribunal.

With three chambers in operation at the ICTR, theoretically the tribunal's work goes beyond 2010, the scheduled date for the end of Appeal procedures.

The ICTR, created in 1994 by the UN, a few months after the Rwandan genocide, has since its first hearing in January 1997 tried 35 people.

Twenty eight others are currently on trial, six on standby and 13 are at large.

At the end of 2007, it has cost more than a billion US dollars. Its budget for 2008/2009, voted last January in New York, is of US dollars 267 million.


© Hirondelle News Agency