16.12.08 - ICTR/HRW - HRW URGES ICTR TO PROSECUTE ALLEGED CRIMES COMMITTED BY RPF

Arusha, 16 December 2008 (FH) - Human Rights Watch (HRW) has strongly urged the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to prosecute soldiers of the former rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, currently in power in Kigali, for the crimes they committed in 1994 , stated an open letter received on Tuesday by the Hirondelle Agency.
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While commending the work of the Tribunal regarding the judgements of the main authors of the 1994 genocide, HRW affirmed that the RPF "killed thousands of civilians" in 1994.

"As you know, the crimes alleged to have been committed by RPF were well documented by a UN Commission of Experts which concluded that the RPF had perpetrated serious breaches of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity", continued the organization in its open letter.

"These crimes were not of the same nature, or scale as the genocide, but they are serious crimes that fall under the ICTR's jurisdiction," wrote the organization stressing that "the victims of these crimes also deserve justice".

"Allowing these crimes to be prosecuted in Rwanda is not an acceptable alternative", commented the organization headquartered in New York. "The ICTR's trial Chambers have now ruled three times in decisions confirmed on appeal that obstacles exist to having fair trials for genocide cases in Rwanda," reminds HRW which doubts "the political will for Rwanda to deliver complete justice for victims of RPF crimes."

"It is essential for you to notify the Security Council that the ICTR will need time for RPF trials," added HRW.

According to HRW, the trial of RPF soldiers who were allegedly murdered 14 clergymen, including three bishops, in Kabgayi in June 1994, was "a failure".

The trial, which took place after the ICTR transferred the case to the Rwandan authorities, led in October two acquittals and two others were sentenced to eight years in prison each.

The American historian, Alison Des Forges, head of the Africa division at HRW, is one of the main expert prosecution witnesses in several trials at the ICTR.

Until now, the Tribunal, created by the United Nations, has only tried the dignitaries of the former Hutu regime allegedly committed the crimes from April to July 1994. According to the UN, nearly 800 000 people, primarily Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered during the killing spree.

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