On the eve of the Conference of the African Union Heads of State and Government to be held in the second week of July 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique, a delegation led by Mr. Adama Dieng, Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) met with the Heads of State of the Republic of Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal in West Africa in an attempt to further sensitize the African leaders about the challenges facing the ICTR towards achieving a successful completion strategy of its mission as well as enlisting political support of the African Union to the work of the Tribunal.
From 26 June to 2 July 2003, the ICTR delegation met in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) on 26 June 2003 with His Excellency Blaise Compaoré, President of the Republic of Burkina Faso, the Ministers of Justice and Foreign Affairs of the Government of Burkina Faso; in Cotonou (Benin) on 27 June 2003 with His Excellency Dorothé Sossa, Minister of Justice, Legislation and Human Rights of the Government of the Republic of Benin; in Bamako (Mali) on 30 June 2003 with His Excellency Amadou Toumani Touré, President of the Republic of Mali and the Justice and Foreign Affairs Ministers of Mali, and in Dakar (Senegal) on 2 July 2003 with His Excellency Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal.
The ICTR delegation provided in-depth briefings to the respective Authorities of these West African States regarding the progress of the ICTR judicial activities and the challenges to be overcome in order to achieve a successful completion of its mission in the next five to seven years. The Registrar made an urgent appeal for political, material and operational support of the Heads of State of the African Union to ensure that the suspects/accused persons who are still at large in the territories of the African Union are apprehended. He further explored with the African leaders ways and means to improve the level of cooperation so far enjoyed by the ICTR.
Moreover, the Registrar called on the three African Heads of State to co-sponsor a special resolution at the next Conference of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Maputo. The resolution is intended to secure a commitment from the African States to support the work of the Tribunal and to fully cooperate with the Tribunal in the course of the implementation of its completion strategy. In addition, the Registrar held extensive discussions about the nature and scope of the assistance and cooperation sought from the African States. He expressed the heartfelt gratitude of the Tribunal for the much-appreciated and continued support extended by their Governments to the Tribunal since its inception.
Responding to the Registrar’s appeal for support, the Heads of State of Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal welcomed the ICTR initiative and assured the ICTR delegation of their commitment to co-sponsor such a resolution at the next summit in Maputo as well as engaging their peers, in an effort to sensitize their respective constituencies about the commendable achievements of the ICTR in putting an end to a long prevailing culture of impunity on the African continent. Meanwhile, the three Heads of State paid tribute to the work of the Tribunal and graciously accepted the ICTR’s invitation to visit the Tribunal in Arusha in the near future, as a show of support to its dedicated staff and its significant achievements.
In the meantime, the Government of Senegal agreed in principle to follow the precedent set by the Republic of Mali in the area of enforcement of sentence handed down by the ICTR. It is hoped that the Republic of Burkina Faso will also follow.
While in the Republic of Benin, The Registrar discussed with the Minister of the Republic of Benin the implementation of the agreement signed with the United Nations concerning the enforcement of the ICTR sentences in Benin. The ICTR delegation visited the prison of Porto Novo selected to accommodate ICTR sentenced persons. The Registrar seized the opportunity to meet with the UNESCO Chair on Human Rights and Democracy of the National University of Benin, with a view of strengthening the existing scientific cooperation with the ICTR in the area of dissemination of the judicial output of the ICTR as well as the development of a legal doctrine based on the ICTR jurisprudence.