Arusha, December 16, 2010 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has failed to meet its goals set for the year ending December 2010 including delivery of judgments in three multi-accused trials involving 14 defendants.

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Presenting six month report on the completion strategy before the United Nations Security Council December 2009, Tribunal's President, Dennis Byron, promised, among others, that the drafting of judgments for the cases would be completed in the course of 2010.

But, in his report to the Security Council ten days ago, Byron said he expected those judgments in the first half of 2011.

Among the trials in question is that of Butare with six accused, including Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the first woman to be indicted for genocide by an international jurisdiction and her son Arsène Shalom Ntahobali.

Other defendants are two former Butare prefects, Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo, as well as two former mayors; Joseph Kanyabashi of Ngoma that Muganza , Elie Ndayambaje.

The other case namely Military II involves four officers of the former Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), amongst them the army Chief of Staff General Augustin Bizimungu and his counterpart of the gendarmerie, Augustin Ndindiliyimana.   

The third case groups together four former ministers of the Interim government of 1994. Their names and ministries in brackets are Casimir Bizimungu (health), Justin Mugenzi (commerce), Prosper Mugiraneza(civil service) and Jerome Bicamumpaka (foreign affairs).

The trial of Butare case commenced on June 12, 2001 and was concluded on April 30, 2009, while hearing of Military II case took off on September 20, 2004 and came to the end on June 29, 2009 and that of Government II started on August 17, 1999 and concluded on December 5, 2008.

This situation raises an important issue: does the ICTR respect the right for an accused to be tried without undue delay? For those accused, the answer is no. One of them, Mugiraneza has already filed four motions, seeking dismissal of the indictment for violation of right to trial without undue delay.

His last request was dismissed in June. However, in a partially dissenting opinion, one of the judges found that Mugiraneza's right to a trial without undue delay has been indeed violated, though he did not consider the dismissal of the indictment against him with prejudice would be necessary or appropriate remedy.

The appropriate remedy, according to Judge Emile Francis Short, would be reduction of sentence upon conviction or form of compensation in case of acquittal.

While addressing the UN Security Council, ten days ago, President Byron listed several reasons causing the delays in judgments. He pointed out among others that the judges are sitting in more than one case while their assistants are also assigned to support other cases. Judge Byron also underscored the need to have fair trials and unpredictability of certain factors.

But his highest concern is the staffing situation.  "In 2010, Tribunal lost almost 100 staff members. For the Chambers alone, the number is 19, representing a high percentage of our staffing level", he said, warning ‘'If the problem is not solved, we cannot exclude further delays in judgments".


© Hirondelle News Agency