The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has proposed to the Rwandan Government to set up a Joint Committee to verify allegations of mistreatment of Witnesses from Rwanda. The allegations were echoed recently by certain non-governmental organisations and Rwandan authorities in public statements. The committee will be composed of four people (comprising two persons appointed by the Rwandan Government and two others appointed by the Registry of the Tribunal). The chairperson of the Committee will be appointed by the Government of Rwanda and the vice-chairperson by the Registry of the Tribunal.
The proposal is contained in a letter dated 4 March 2002 sent by Mr. Adama Dieng, the Registrar of the Tribunal to the Rwandan Minister of Justice and Institutional Relations H.E. Jean de Dieu Mucyo. The proposal 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 allegations and the need for the Tribunal to ensure the welfare of witnesses called to testify in Arusha.
The proposed Committee’s task shall be as follows:
a) To draw up a verification programme in accordance with the agreed terms of reference and within the prescribed time-limit;
b) To examine the content of each allegation and to ascertain the truth of the information provided;
c) To go where necessary or to hear any witness whose statement will have been submitted to the authorities of the Rwandan Ministry of Justice;
d) To gather all material or other evidence relating to the allegations; and
e) To produce a detailed report to be submitted at the end of the prescribed time limit.
The proposal 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 in general and those from Rwanda in particular, 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.
It is proposed that the Committee begin meeting from 1 April 2002 to examine the allegations. It will have two weeks to submit its report to the Minister of Justice and the Registrar of the Tribunal. The Committee may sit for one week in Kigali and four days in Arusha.
To enable the Committee to accomplish its task efficiently, the Registrar has requested the Rwandan Ministry to collect from the organisations and authorities that echoed the allegations explicit and comprehensive information as to the content of the allegations as well as their sources, in terms of those who made the allegations. The information gathered must be communicated to the Registry of the Tribunal one-week before the start of Committee’s work.
The proposal concludes that upon submission of the final report to the two authorities, they shall consider it and decide on measures that each of them will take, within the limits of their functions, to prevent a repeat of mistreatment or the dissemination of baseless information.
The findings of the report will be made public within one month after its submission.