Arusha,26 November,2008 (FH)-The Prosecutor of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Justice Hassan Jallow, has underscored importance of national jurisdictions to try genocide suspects and to combat the culture of impunity.

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Opening the three-day forum of national and international prosecutors, policy makers and civil society members Wednesday, Justice Jallow said that national systems have to play critical role if progress was to be made in fighting impunity.

"The development from legal primacy to the principle of complimentarity as well as the strategy for transfer of cases from the [international] tribunals to the national courts are all a recognition of the dire need for a very close and effective partnership between national legal systems and international institutions,'' he told over 80 delegates.

He added:" We must work together[national institutions and international tribunals] to ensure that there are no gaps in our struggle to end impunity for crimes; that no safe heavens exist for the suspects of international crimes; that any work left over from the mandate of the tribunal is effectively undertaken by national systems. The ICTR Prosecutor, who is the host of the Forum, said experience and the records of the ad hoc international tribunals and the pool of talent are at the disposal of national institutions.

Giving an example, Justice Jallow cited the UN Tribunal for Rwanda, which he said, had a real prospect that some of those persons indicted may not be tried within the remaining time frames and that such persons may have to be transferred to national jurisdictions for trial. However, as the Prosecutor was stressing for the transfers, the ICTR Chambers in recent months have already turned down such transfers of four genocide accused persons held in Arusha to Rwanda on grounds that may not get a fair trial.

The UN ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda (ICTR) and its sister court in The Hague (ICTY) are expected to wrap its first instance trials by at least before end of next year.

The President of ICTR, Sir Dennis Byron, observed that the jurisprudence of the international tribunals was still too little taken into consideration.

"The jurisprudence should provide guidance as a point of reference in national jurisprudence and legislation and in the daily work of prosecutors dealing with international crimes."

According to Justice Byron, the Tribunal's work has already and continues to have an impact on national compliance with international obligations in the human rights sphere, referring in particular to the abolition of the death penalty and further judicial reforms in Rwanda to enable the future referral of cases to Rwandan courts. "These reforms will impact also on national decisions concerning the possible extradition of suspects to Rwanda,' he stated.

Addressing the same gathering, ICTR Registrar, Adama Dieng said: "We live in a century where it is not possible to turn a blind eye on horrendous crimes like genocide or crimes against humanity, irrespective of their venue" adding that it was an international duty of every leader, every prosecutor, every human rights activist to identify the legal contours of each international crime and assist in its effective prosecution.

The Prosecutor of Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), Stephen Rapp, said that with new international justice order, there was no safe shelter for any genocidaire or a person who has committed human rights violations.

"Who knew that one day Charles Taylor (ex-president of Liberia), Slobovan Milosevic (ex-Serbian President) or Jean Kambanda (ex-PM of Rwanda during 1994 genocide) and other top ministers will face justice before international courts...but haven't they faced it ?."

Mr Rapp, a former Chief of Prosecutions at the ICTR, said that ad hoc tribunals have given affirmative definitions to genocide and other humanitarian crimes of international level which were hitherto never there.

The Forum is planned to wind up on Friday.


© Hirondelle News Agency