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Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 13:31 GMT
Rwanda tribunal's shaky progress

Former military commander Tharcisse Muvunyi Tharcisse Muvunyi: Arrest was welcomed by Rwanda


By the BBC's Chris Simpson in Kigali

While the three-month rift between the Rwandan Government and the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is officially over, Rwanda remains strongly critical of the ICTR's rate of progress.

Since its creation by the UN in 1995, the tribunal has delivered only seven verdicts from its courtrooms in the Tanzanian town of Arusha.

Nearly all the trials completed to date have experienced long delays and adjournments.

The most senior figure sentenced so far, former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, has appealed against his life sentence, arguing he had received misleading legal advice when he pleaded guilty to crimes of genocide in April 1998.

Recent arrests

The ICTR's Chief Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, has promised a more vigorous approach, particularly in pursuing the extradition of key suspects sheltering in Europe, the United States and Africa.

Prosecutor Carla del Ponte Carla del Ponte: Keen to improve relations with Rwandan Government
The tribunal's profile has been helped by a series of arrests in recent weeks.

Among those in custody, awaiting extradition to the tribunal, is former military commander Tharcisse Muvunyi, who was arrested in London after representations from the ICTR and the Rwandan government and a press campaign highlighting allegations of Muvnyi's involvement in mass killings in the southern region of Butare.

Ms del Ponte believes Muvunyi will be transferred to Arusha within a matter of weeks, once the legal formalities in London are completed.

Former Higher Education Minister, Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, who was arrested in France in November, has lost his appeal against extradition and should also be heading to Arusha.

Former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda Jean Kambanda: Appealed against life sentence
The former head of the National Gendarmerie, Augustin Ndindiliyimana, was arrested at the tribunal's request in Belgium in January, having initially been granted refugee status.

Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, a former Seventh Day Adventist pastor, looks to have lost his battle to remain in the United States and is also expected to be in Arusha soon.

Rapprochement

All this activity has undoubtedly helped the ICTR's rapprochement with Rwanda.

Relations, which had often been strained in the past, hit a new low in November after the Tribunal's Appeals Court in The Hague ordered the release of Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, viewed in Rwanda as a key ideologue and hardliner who played a key role in the genocide of 1994.

Enraged by the decision, the Rwandan Government formally withdrew its co-operation with the ICTR, despite Carla del Ponte's public opposition to the Barayagwiza ruling.

Prime Minister Paul Kagame Prime Minister Paul Kagame: Meeting with Del Ponte signalled thaw
Denied a visa in November and snubbed by the government on her first visit to Kigali in December 1999, Carla del Ponte had a cordial meeting with Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame on 10 February, remarking afterwards: "I am grateful to the Rwandan Government for the past co-operation and co-operation in the future. The most important thing is that we have all criminals tried".

Among those criminals is Jean-Bosco Baryagwiza. The ICTR is set to review the Appeals Court ruling at a special session in Arusha on 22 February.

Carla del Ponte has pledged she will be backing the Rwandan Government in trying to ensure Barayagwiza goes to trial, promising to submit new evidence which was not available when his release was ordered in November.

The Rwandan government has welcomed Ms del Ponte's support but has warned of very serious consequences if Baraygwiza wins at Arusha and goes free.

"This is very important for us", Justice Minister Jean de dieu Mucyo said of the Barayagwiza judgement.

"All Rwandans will be hugely dismayed if its goes against us".

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See also:
15 Feb 00 |  Africa
Rwandan genocide suspects arrested in Europe
06 Feb 00 |  Africa
UK court detains Rwandan colonel
09 Feb 00 |  Africa
Genocide suspect faces trial
27 Jan 00 |  Africa
Rwandan factory boss guilty of genocide
22 Jan 00 |  Africa
Rwanda updates genocide list
18 Mar 99 |  Africa
Eyewitness: Rwanda's survivors

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