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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 13:26 GMT

World: Africa

Prosecutor's Rwanda visit to go ahead

800,000 people are believed to have died in the genocide

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Carla del Ponte, intends to go ahead with her visit to the country, despite the anger of the Rwandan Government over the release of a key genocide suspect.

Rwanda has meanwhile called on the United Nations court of appeal to overturn its decision to release Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, and has issued an international warrant for his arrest.

Rwandan Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo said he could not meet Ms del Ponte, in protest at the tribunal's decision to release Mr Barayagwiza on procedural grounds.

[ image: Carla del Ponte: Trying to mend relations]
Carla del Ponte: Trying to mend relations
Appeal judges had ordered Mr Barayagwiza's release on the grounds that he had been held for too long without appearing in court - a move which prompted Rwanda to suspend co-operation with the Tanzania-based tribunal.

But Ms del Ponte's spokesman confirmed that "the prosecutor does intend to travel to Kigali. She will go in 10 days."

Rwanda wants the decision to free Mr Barayagwiza "fully explained and reversed as a first step prior to other logical steps including direct talks with the UN on this grave issue," Rwandan ambassador to the UN, Joseph Mutaboba said on Thursday.

He said there was "absolutely no justification" for the appeals court's decision and it "set a terrible precedent for other planners and perpetrators of genocide".

Ms del Ponte has said she intended to visit Rwanda to try and repair the tribunal's relations with Kigali.

Demand for explanation

Mr Mutaboba said such a visit could be a "second stage", in the process of mending relations, but would be "a waste of money and energy and time" unless it was preceeded by a written explanation and a reversal of the appeals court decision.

Mr Mucyo confirmed on Thursday that Rwanda had already issued a new international warrant for Mr Barayagwiza's arrest, on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and planning genocide.

The justice minister called on "all countries in the world that respect human rights to refuse to take in Barayagwiza".

Tanzanian custody

Mr Barayagwiza is still in the custody of the Tazanian authorities in Arusha.

The UN court had ordered that he be returned to Cameroon, where he had spent 19 months in prison awaiting extradition.

But Mr Barayagwiza appealed against the order, asking to be allowed to choose the country to which he would be sent.

Mr Barayagwiza was a senior figure in the Foreign Ministry during the genocide and was also an official at the notorious Rwandan hate radio station, Mille Collines, which was blamed for helping to incite mass killings.

Around 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered during the 1994 Rwandan massacre.

Rwanda is conducting its own genocide trials, separate from the UN tribunal, and has so far executed 22 people.

At least 125,000 people are jailed in Rwanda awaiting trial on a variety of charges ranging from orchestrating genocide to obeying orders to kill their neighbours.

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