Arusha, July 24, 2009 (FH) - A Judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Joseph Asoka de Silva, from Sri Lanka has been appointed as the new Chief Justice of his country, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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The 63-old-Judge de Silva has already been sworn in by the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, according to the latest edition of ICTR's News Letter.

The United Nations Security Council in its resolution 1878 of June, 2009, stated clearly that Judge de Silva and another one [Judge Francis Short of Ghana] at the same Tribunal ‘'may work part-time and engage in another judicial occupation or occupations of equivalent independent status in their home countries during the remainder of their terms of office until the completion of the cases which they are assigned...''  

But, the resolution also cautioned: ‘'The President of the International Tribunal[ Justice Dennis Byron] shall have the responsibility to ensure that this arrangement is compatible with the independence and impartiality of judges, does not give rise to conflicts of interest and does not delay the delivery of the judgment,'' the resolution stated.

This is the first time judges of the Tribunal are given such a permission to work independently for both their country and at the UN court.

Judge de Silva was nominated as permanent Judge of ICTR on August 3, 2004 by the Security Council to replace his country-mate, Judge Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana, who resigned on health grounds and shortly later died in 2004.

 Judge de Silva has served Sri Lankan courts for 37 years.

He started his career as government solicitor in 1972 and served in the capacity for 19 years before rising to position of  Deputy Solicitor General in 1991.  Four years later, he was elevated as Judge of the Appeals Court, Chairman of the Appeals Court and later High Court Judge.

Among the cases which Judge de Silva is still working on at the Arusha-based ICTR, include a joint trial of four top former Rwandan military officers dubbed as "Military II Trial'',  which is at the drafting stage. The judgement is expected next year.

The accused army officers are: General Augustin Bizimungu, former Chief of Staff of the Rwandan army, and another Chief of Staff of gendarmerie national, General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, former Commander of Reconnaissance Battalion, Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and his Deputy Captain Innocent Sagahutu. All have pleaded not guilty to 1994 genocide.


The ICTR was established by the Security Council in November 1994 to try key suspects of the genocide, which claimed about 800,000 lives of moderate Hutus and ethnic Tutsis in 100-day slaughter, one of the worst in the modern century.

The UN Court has so far convicted 39 persons and acquitted six.Trials are underway for 24 accused persons in 11 cases.


© Hirondelle News Agency