Next week the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will report to the Security Council on his work. As the 2008 date for the completion of its trials approaches, it is imperative for Security Council members to stress the importance they attach to the ICTR addressing the serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Rwanda Patriotic Army.
In 1994, the RPA killed thousands of civilians, in the process committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. These crimes have been well-documented, including by a U.N. Commission of Experts which concluded that the RPA had “perpetrated serious breaches of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity.”
If the ICTR completes its trials without providing justice to victims of crimes committed by both sides in Rwanda, the tribunal’s legacy will be at risk. Moreover, the ICTR will fall far short in advancing peace and reconciliation in the region.
Past experience suggests that the Rwandan government may cease to cooperate with the ICTR if it believes the Prosecutor intends to prosecute RPA officials. While Rwandan authorities should not be allowed to flout their legal obligation to cooperate with the tribunal, as a practical matter the Prosecutor of the ICTR may wish to near completion of his current docket before he issues indictments against any RPA officials. In order to allow this strategy to be viable, we urge you to assure the Prosecutor that he will be afforded the necessary time to prosecute RPA cases even if those proceedings continue beyond the end of 2008.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)
Human Rights Watch