The Registrar of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal Mr. Adama Dieng on 1 July 2005 told members of the press in New York that the work of the Tribunal was presently at an all-time high with an unprecedented number of trials in progress.
Speaking at a UN headquarters press briefing Mr. Dieng said the high level of activity was thanks to the full use of the Tribunal’s nine ad litem judges, the nine permanent judges and the addition of a fourth trial chamber, which had been funded by the Governments of Norway and the United Kingdom.
He said judgements had been completed in the cases of 25 accused and 25 others were on trial. The defence was presenting its case in two of those trials, which involved 10 accused, and the prosecution had already called all its witnesses in another trial concerning four accused. Sixteen detainees were awaiting trial and their cases would begin as soon as trial chamber capacity permitted.
He further said the appeal chamber had recently delivered three judgements involving four accused, as well as numerous interlocutory decisions, adding that there were 57 accused at the United Nations Detention Facility in Arusha.
Mr Dieng said there were still 16 indictees at large, and it was hoped that 10 of those fugitives, including 10 who were considered to have been ringleaders in the genocide, would be apprehended soon. The Tribunal had enjoyed considerable success in terms of arrests, thanks to the contribution of Member States who had been very forthcoming with their assistance, he said.
Regarding other fugitives, he said there were indications that they were hiding in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He added that it had been extremely difficult to apprehend them, considering the situation in that area, but the tracking team from the Office of the Prosecutor had recently been reorganized so that it could focus on making arrests.
He disclosed that the ICTR Prosecutor had recently been in contact with authorities in Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Kenya. Shortly before Mwai Kibaki’s succession to the Kenyan presidency, the tracking team had been able to trace Félicien Kabuga, a fugitive whose name had been mentioned in the Security Council. There had been indications in the Kenyan media that he might have returned to that country and efforts to apprehend him were continuing.
Mr. Dieng said the Prosecutor had also started the process of referring cases to national jurisdictions and had handed over 15 dossiers to the Rwandan Government in February. However, those did not include cases in which the accused that had already been indicted. For its own part, the Registry continued to give its steadfast support to the judicial process through its daily servicing of the chambers, the prosecution and the defence.
The Registry, he added, had also gathered support from Member States and other international institutions. He recalled that two years ago he had met with President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and drawn his attention to the presence of fugitives between Lubumbashi in the south-east and the capital, Kinshasa. The President’s cooperation had resulted in two arrests.
Fugitives easily crossed national borders between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Republic of Tanzania, Kenya and Congo. The Tribunal had arrested a former general in Angola less than two years ago.
Mr. Dieng said the Tribunal had already begun reflecting on legacy issues. It was extremely important, particularly for Africa, that academics, journalists and researchers be able to access the Tribunal’s documentation, which were an important contribution to the fight against impunity in the region. The Truth Commission and Special Trial Chamber being established in Burundi would definitely benefit from the jurisprudence of the Arusha Tribunal.
Asked whether the name of the last indictee had been released, the Registrar said it would be released in the coming days. That indictment was for genocide, he emphasized, pointing out that the Tribunal was also competent to try all other violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.
Asked why was the Tribunal optimistic that it could find the 10 out of 16 indicted fugitives still at large and whether, if the 10 were arrested by the time the Tribunal wrapped up, would it mean that the remaining six had escaped justice, the Registrar clarified that there were 16 suspects under investigation, 16 indictees awaiting trial, and 10 fugitives still at large.
The reason for optimism, he explained, was the development of a close relationship between the Tribunal and the African Union, which entailed understandings regarding special judicial measures to accompany policies on disarming the Interahamwe militia and former Forces armées rwandaises (ex-FAR) members responsible for the genocide who were in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Another reason for optimism was a commitment by Condoleezza Rice, United States Secretary of State.
Asked what specific promise she had made, Mr. Dieng replied that Ms. Rice had said she would contact those heads of State whose names the Prosecutor had mentioned to her, so that she could secure their cooperation through diplomatic channels.
Regarding cooperation with the International Criminal Court, Mr. Dieng said that the Prosecutor and Registrar had been in touch with the Tribunal and they were trying to avoid any mistakes that may have been made by the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Tribunal was also helping the ICC Registrar to set up witness-protection mechanisms, having had experience in that area since 1997 and having brought to Arusha 1,350 witnesses from 41 countries.
Asked about complementarity between the Tribunal and the gacaca traditional justice system in Rwanda, he said that gacaca was not only a system for settling disputes, but also a healing process. Burundi was in touch with Rwanda over the possibility of establishing a similar system.
On what mechanism was there to track down the 10 fugitives if the Tribunal could not track them down before it wound up its work, the Registrar said that had to do with issues of residual justice, and the relevant organs could be established to bring the fugitives to justice.