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UN tribunal for Rwandan genocide details progress towards completing trials

UN tribunal for Rwandan genocide details progress towards completing trials

The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the 1994 Rwandan genocide says it expects to double the number of completed trials by the end of next year, leaving only a handful of trials remaining involving detainees in its custody.

In a progress report to the Security Council on its efforts to meet the Council-imposed completion strategy, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) estimates that the trials and judgments in the cases of 65 to 70 people should be finished by December 2008.

Under the completion strategy, that is the date by when both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), set up in the mid-1990s, are supposed to complete all of their trials, excluding appeals. All work is scheduled to be completed by 2010.

So far the ICTR has issued judgments in the cases of 33 people, ICTR President Erik Møse writes, with judgments expected soon in the cases of five other persons. Trials involving 22 further accused are also in progress and eight detainees await trial.

Mr. Møse says the 65-70 trial estimate depends on sufficient funds being made available to the Tribunal; the courtroom capacity at Arusha, Tanzania, where the ICTR is based; and the progress of current and future trials.

“The Tribunal is committed to bringing to justice those persons who were most responsible for genocide and violations of international humanitarian law that were committed in Rwanda in 1994,” he states, adding that the ICTR “will also leave a legacy of international jurisprudence that can guide future courts and deter the future commission of these grave crimes.”

But he also writes that many cases are extremely time-consuming, in part because of their legal and factual complexity and because of the difficulty of ensuring that witnesses are always available.

Eighteen indicted persons remain at large, and the report notes that Tribunal prosecutors plan to request the transfer of most of these persons to national jurisdictions for trial.