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Saturday, November 6, 1999 Published at 15:24 GMT


Prosecutor: The people feel betrayed

Rwanda's chief prosecutor Gerard Gahima has accused the war crimes tribunal of betrayal following its decision to free former government official, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, who is accused of genocide.

These are excerpts of what Mr Gahima said during a broadcast on Radio Rwanda:

'The decision not only illustrates the utter ignorance of the court of what happened in this country, but also betrays the worrying misunderstanding, a gross misunderstanding of the whole purpose of the existence of the tribunal.

The tribunal was primarily established to bring about accountability by those who organised genocide. It was not established to provide redress for individuals per se. That is the work of national jurisdiction.

In any case, victims of large scale human rights violations are human beings too and equally deserving of the court's protection.

There is absolutely no justification for a decision to dismiss the charges against Barayagwiza.

Delays and shortcomings

The delay of several months in transferring him from Cameroon [where he was arrested] did not, in our opinion, prejudice his ability to prepare his defence ...

The appeals chamber attributes the cause of the prejudice occasioned to the appellant to the negligence of the ICTR [International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda] prosecutor.

We do not feel that the interests of justice are served by penalising the people of Rwanda for the shortcomings of a UN prosecutor over whom we have no control.

The people of Rwanda feel betrayed that internal misunderstandings between various organs and officers of the tribunal are contributing to frustrate the pursuit of justice for the crimes which were committed.

Damages

The assertion that the remedy available for the prosecutor's inaction and the resultant denial of the rights of the appellant, is release and dismissal of the charges against the appellant, is very wrong.

The appellant could conceivably be adequately compensated with an award of damages. Victims of arbitrary arrests and detention worldwide are compensated in this manner every day.

There is no reason why the UN cannot give monetary compensation to someone in the appellant's position.

On the other hand, justice for the victims of the crimes of which the appellant is accused, can only be served by establishing the truth and the truth can only be established by a trial of the case against the accused on its merit.

In conclusion, the government of Rwanda has decided to suspend, strictly within the limits of the law allowed by national law and the applicable international law, all co-operation with, and assistance to, the organs of the tribunal.

We look forward to discussing with the organs concerned measures or arrangements that can help to reverse this deplorable precedent.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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