Arusha, August 22, 2013 (FH) – The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), set up to handle the residual tasks of the UN tribunals for Rwanda and ex-Yugoslavia, currently has only one case pending before it. That means that unless there are new arrests, it is likely to finish its judicial work before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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The Arusha branch of the MICT, in charge of the residual tasks of the ICTR, started work on July 2, 2012, while the branch for the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) started operating at the beginning of July this year.

The MICT was established by UN Resolution 1996 of December 22, 2010, which divides tasks between this new residual structure and the two ad hoc tribunals. The tribunals must complete their work by the end of 2014 at the latest. With regard to strictly judicial work, each tribunal must complete cases they had pending before the relevant MICT branch became operational, including appeals. Any new cases or appeals filed after that date are to be handled by the MICT, which was set up for an initial period of four years. 

Former minister’s appealOne year after it started working, the MICT Arusha branch currently has only the appeal of former Planning Minister Augustin Ngirabatware referred to it. Ngirabatware  was sentenced to 35 years in jail on December 22, 2012. Because the judgment was handed down five months after the MICT Arusha branch began operating, the MICT is to handle the appeal. Ngirabatware’s appeals hearing has yet to take place, but the depositions of the parties are well advanced, which, according to a member of the Registry, means a judgment could be expected by the end of the first half 2014.

After that, the Arusha branch of the MICT will only return to the courtroom if there are new arrests. Nine accused persons are still on the run, including three “big fish”: rich businessman and alleged financier of the genocide Félicien Kabuga, former Defence Minister Augustin Bizimana, and former head of the Presidential Guard Protais Mpiranya. For Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow, who obtained the transfer of the six other fugitives’ cases to Rwanda, the three big fish should be tried by the MICT. But they must first be arrested, which the ICTR has not managed to do in 18 years of existence and with more resources than the new residual structure.

ICTR steps up its paceMeanwhile the ICTR is redoubling its efforts to meet the UN’s closure deadline. Six appeals are currently pending before it, involving 15 convicted individuals. The most complex is that of former Minister of Family Affairs Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and five others. According to sources close to the case, the appeals hearing is unlikely to be held before summer 2014. “It seems unlikely that a judgment will be handed down before the first half of 2015. In other words, after the deadline set by New York,” say these sources.

The mandate of the MICT nevertheless goes beyond judicial activities. It is also charged with managing the archives of the ICTR, supervising the implementation of sentences, examining requests for provisional release, ensuring the protection of victims and witnesses, and continuing cooperation with national jurisdictions seized with cases related to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.