Arusha, 02 June, 2009 (FH) - The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) Monday criticised the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for failing to prosecute former Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) senior officers for their alleged atrocities committed in Rwanda in 1994, but Kigali has already dismissed the criticisms.

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In a letter addressed to the ICTR Prosecutor, HRW charged that the court must urgently indict the former senior RPF officers whose jurisdictions fall under it.

The letter underscored the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) prosecuted both parties to the conflict, whereas the ICTR prosecuted only one party-- the Hutus who were by then in power, leaving aside  the ethnic Tutsis, currently in power in Kigali, who are also alleged to have committed war crimes.

Since its establishment 15 years ago, ICTR has already handed down cases of 44 accused out of which 38 were convicted and six were acquitted. All of them Hutus except for one Belgian-Italian Journalist.

‘'The Tribunal's failure to address the war crimes committed by RPF risks leaving the impression that it is delivering only the victor's justice,'' Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of HRW said, emphasizing ‘'that is poor legacy for this historic effort at the International justice.''

ICTR is expected to wind up all first instance trials by the end of this year.

On Thursday, ICTR Prosecutor, Hassan Jallow and the Tribunal's President, Judge Dennis Byron, will address the United Nations Security Council in New York on progress of the completion strategy.

The HRW clearly stated that crimes allegedly committed by RPF were well documented by various UN agencies, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) which revealed that between April and August 1994, the RPF killed between 25,000 and 45,000 civilians.

It further criticized the Prosecutor for attempting to send some cases from ICTR to be prosecuted in Rwanda instead of dealing squarely with such suspected RPF war criminals. The move to transfer five cases to Rwanda was abortive.

Although Rwandan authorities prosecuted four of its military officers for war crimes last year for killing 13 clergy men, including bishops, the HRW explicitly stated that it was not satisfied with it.

‘'The office of the Prosecutor did not diligently monitor the trial and has not yet stated publicly whether it met international standards,'' claimed Roth.

Reacting to the HRW criticisms over Radio Rwanda on Tuesday morning, Rwanda Justice Minister, Tharcisse   Karugarama said: ‘'Human Rights Watch is deliberately ignoring the truth. These people have been tried and we don't see how ICTR can try people who have already been prosecuted.''

He added that there was a principal in law which stipulates that nobody can be prosecuted for the same offence by two different tribunals.

Commenting on the sentences on military trials which according to the HRW were very low, the Rwandan Minister said: ‘'HRW pretends to be judges and the prosecutor at the same time while they are neither judges nor prosecutors.''

Efforts to get comments from the ICTR Prosecutor and its President proved futile.


© Hirondelle News Agency