The President of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Judge Erik Møse on 15 December 2005 addressed the UN Security Council and presented an up-dated version of the ICTR Completion Strategy, submitted to the Council on 5 December 2005.
The President said that there has been steady progress at the ICTR since he and the ICTR Prosecutor appeared before the Council in June this year. He told the Council that the number of accused with their cases completed or on-going is now fifty-two. Below is an abridged version of his speech;
“On 13 December 2005, judgment was rendered in the case of Aloys Simba, a retired lieutenant colonel and former member of parliament. He was convicted of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity and sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment. This brings the number of accused having received judgment to twenty-six since the first trials started in 1997.
In the Bisengimana case, the Trial Chamber accepted a guilty plea from the Accused on 7 December 2005 for crimes against humanity (extermination and murder). Following the sentencing hearing on 19 January 2006, the number of persons with completed cases will therefore soon be twenty-seven. The Bisengimana case is the sixth guilty plea at the ICTR.
In addition to these two completed single-accused cases, two new cases started during the last six months. The Mpambara trial, which relates to a bourgmestre, commenced on 19 September 2005. The Chamber heard ten Prosecution witnesses over eight days. Two additional days were allotted to cross-examination this week. This makes it the fastest Prosecution case in the Tribunal’s history. The Defence will present its evidence from Monday 9 January 2006, and judgment is expected in the first half of 2006.
The second new trial involves prefect Zigiranyirazo. It started on 3 October 2005. The Prosecution is expected to have presented all its evidence by March 2006.
I should also mention that following the pre-trial preparations during the last months, a third new trial is scheduled to commence on 9 January 2006. This case involves prefect Karera.
Turning now to the trials that were in progress before the meeting of the Security Council in June 2005, I will first provide an up-date with respect to three single-accused cases. In the Seromba trial, which commenced on 20 September 2004, there was a need to replace Defence counsel. However, the Defence is now presenting its evidence and will close its case early next year. The Muvunyi trial commenced on 28 February 2005. Here, too, the Defence is near completion of the presentation of its evidence. There is also a positive development in Rwamakuba, which commenced on 9 June 2005 after having been severed from the other three accused in the Karemera et al. case. The Defence will complete its case in early 2006.
In brief, I am very pleased to report that these three single-accused cases are approaching completion, and that judgments will be rendered in 2006. This will make room for the commencement of new single-accused trials. Pre-trial preparations are underway.
The five multi-accused trials have continued to progress steadily during the last months. In Butare (six accused), the second accused are now presenting his witnesses. In Military I (four accused), over fifty Defence witnesses have testified. In the Government trial (four accused), the Defence has presented its evidence since the beginning of November, as planned. The two other joint trials are at an earlier stage. In Military II (four accused), over half of the Prosecution witnesses have testified. Karemera et al. (three accused) started de novo in September and is advancing well.
Mr President, I hope to have conveyed a picture of how busy the ICTR has been these last months, handling ten trials involving twenty-six accused. About sixteen accused are being transported to and from the courtroom every day. All four courtrooms are in full use from morning to evening. Our fourth courtroom, funded by voluntary contributions, has proven to be absolutely vital in order to ensure progress. Everyone in the courtroom is working extremely hard: the judges, Prosecution and Defence Counsel, interpreters, court reporters, court room officers, witness protection personnel, and all other staff members who more indirectly, but not less importantly, contribute to the smooth running of our cases. Some of our judges even sit in double shifts and hear two trials a day.
Still considerable work remains to be done. It follows from our Completion Strategy document that seventeen detainees are awaiting trial. As I have explained, there will be only fifteen detainees waiting early next year. As soon as there is courtroom space and judges available we will endeavour to reduce the number further by starting new trials. Let me recall that all the remaining cases are single-accused trials, which will make our task easier.
Let me simply note that so far the Trial Chambers have not received any requests for such transfers pursuant to Rule 11 bis. The Prosecutor will also inform the Council about the indictees at large and the prospects for their arrest. In relation to these two issues, transfer of cases and arrest of fugitives, I would like to stress that state co-operation is absolutely essential for the ICTR. Impunity for perpetrators of mass atrocities is no viable option.
Another area where the ICTR depends on the assistance of States is the relocation of acquitted persons. The Council will recall that three of our accused have been acquitted. In relation to the first, Mr Bagilishema, the ICTR is still very grateful to the French authorities that kindly accepted to receive him. At present, two acquitted persons are still in Arusha in spite of having been acquitted by judgement of 25 February 2004 in the so-called Cyangugu trial. During the appeals proceedings, they have been placed in a safe house pending unsuccessful efforts to find a country for them. States should consider it a common responsibility, and an important contribution to international criminal justice, to find a solution to the relocation of acquitted persons.
Rwanda has continued to co-operate with the Tribunal by facilitating a steady flow of witnesses from Kigali to Arusha and by providing documents of relevance to the court proceedings. This is appreciated by the Tribunal. Let me also recall that our Outreach programme remains a prioritized area. Inside Rwanda, a vital role is played by the ICTR Information Centre in Kigali. I refer to our tenth annual report for further information about its activities. Moreover, the Tribunal continues to receive frequent delegations from many parts of Rwandan society. Direct observation of trials in Arusha and discussions with Tribunal officials are essential to better understand our contribution to justice and reconciliation.
I would also like to reiterate the need for capacity-building inside Rwanda, in order to strengthen the judicial system within a country which is faced with an enormous task. Governmental and non-governmental organizations are playing an important part in this field.
Let me conclude by reiterating that the ICTR is on course in relation to its Completion Strategy. We remain committed to the deadline for completion of trials established by the Security Council. We also want to express our deep appreciation to the distinguished members of the Security Council for their continued support to the ICTR.”