Kigali, November 17, 2009

Defence lawyers against ICTR archives coming to Rwanda


The Hague: Defence attorneys of suspects undergoing trials at different international tribunals have added their voice to growing opposition against the transfer of millions of documents to Rwanda from cases at the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), RNA reports.

Kigali, with the strong backing of genocide survivors' groups wants the archives brought here because it believes the documents are part of the country's troubled history. Last month, government made that clear to the UN through its Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro when she was in Kigali.

Kenya seems to be the only country which has come out openly to be given custody of the documents. However, despite the pressure pilling up, the ICTR Office of the Prosecutor told RNA last month that the archives are property of the UN. The [UN] General Assembly and the Security Council will decide the ultimate home, according to ICTR spokesman Roland Amoussouga.

For this matter, some 120 defense lawyers from the five international courts meeting in The Hague this week came in defense of the ICTR.

UN protection of the ICTR archives in a neutral site, like other international tribunals will be necessary to guarantee an accurate and accessible historical record, the attorneys said in a final statement Monday [16 November].

As the Rwanda tribunal prepares to close next year, the lawyers want the UN to also continue providing "ongoing protection of detainees' rights, proper jail conditions, and meaningful procedures for revision of convictions".

The tribunal also came under fierce attack from most of the speakers. They accuse the court of not fulfilling its mandate - a position which remains controversial, depending on which you talk to.

Major voices that conference included American top lawyer Prof Peter Erlinder, who [is] Lead Defence Counsel for Major Aloys Ntabakuze in the Military 1 Trial - which has dragged on for years.

Former US Attorney-General Ramsey Clark questioned the legality of UN criminal tribunals that are not authorized under the UN Charter. "Fairness at the ICTR is a fiction that we agree upon with the most devastating damages... [ellipsis as published]", he argued.

For Austrian political philosopher Dr. Hans Koechler; "Ad hoc criminal courts should not be created by the UN Security Council....which is inherently a political body".

Prof John Laughland of the Centre for the History of Central Europe at the Sorbonne noted examples of political interference with UN tribunals for both Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

The conference came after the conclusion of another major conference in Kigali last week bringing together Chief Prosecutors of the five international criminal courts.

Original Language: English

Source: RNA news agency, Kigali, in English 0000 gmt 17 Nov 09/