Rwanda: UN tribunal proposes investigation into charges witnesses mistreated

Rwanda: UN tribunal proposes investigation into charges witnesses mistreated

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Responding to allegations that witnesses, particularly those from Rwanda, have been mistreated, the United Nations war crimes tribunal has proposed forming a joint committee with the country’s government to investigate the charges.

A letter sent earlier this month by a senior official of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to the Minister of Justice and Institutional Relations proposes that a committee comprising two persons appointed by the Government and two others appointed by the Tribunal look into the allegations, which were echoed recently by certain non-governmental organizations and Rwandan authorities in public statements.

The proposal by ICTR Registrar Adama Dieng said it was absolutely vital to work together to verify the validity of the allegations openly and fairly in view of the nature of the claims and the need for the Tribunal to ensure the welfare of witnesses called to testify in Arusha, Tanzania, where the court is based.

According to the proposal, the Committee will be asked to draw up a plan to verify the charges; examine the content and truth of each allegation; and go where necessary or hear any witness whose statement will have been submitted to the authorities of the Rwandan Ministry of Justice. The panel will also gather all material or other evidence relating to the allegations; and produce a detailed report, which will be made public within one month of its submission.

Mr. Dieng’s letter, dated 4 March, said that the allegations a priori discredit and cast doubt on the impartial efforts made by the relevant sections of the Tribunal to adequately look after the witnesses so that they are neither denied their rights nor subjected to any physical harm, and to create a propitious atmosphere to ensure that their presence in Arusha to testify does not occasion further trauma.

If agreed to, the Committee will begin meeting from 1 April and have two weeks to submit its report to the Minister of Justice, Jean de Dieu Mucyo, and the Tribunal Registrar. The Committee may sit for one week in Kigali and four days in Arusha.