(New York) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda may lose its credibility unless it indicts and tries Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) officers suspected of having committed war crimes in Rwanda in 1994, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the tribunal's chief prosecutor made public today.
Responding to claims by the chief prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, that he has done everything he can to investigate crimes on all sides for the events of 1994, the letter points out that the tribunal has brought to justice leading figures behind the genocide but failed to pursue officers of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the rebel group that ended the genocide and has since become Rwanda's governing party. The RPF is alleged to have killed between 25,000 and 45,000 civilians in the same three-month period.
"The prosecutor's failure to commit to prosecuting senior RPF officers has undermined his credibility and that of the ICTR," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Time is running out for him to fulfill his mandate and to secure the tribunal's legacy as a champion of justice and accountability for all victims in Rwanda."
Although the tribunal has investigated RPF crimes for more than 10 years and has gathered witness testimony and physical evidence, Jallow told the UN Security Council on June 4, 2009, in a briefing about the tribunal's progress, that he did "not have an indictment that is ready in respect of these allegations at this particular stage."
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly urged Jallow to outline his plans for prosecuting the Rwandan Patriotic Front's crimes before the tribunal's tenure ends at the end of 2010.
In response to Human Rights Watch's previous requests, the prosecutor issued a letter suggesting that his office did not have enough evidence to bring prosecutions against Rwandan Patriotic Front officers. The prosecutor defended his June 2008 decision to transfer an RPF case to Rwanda to be prosecuted there. He reiterated his position that Rwanda's attempt to hold RPF officers to account in last year's domestic trial - known as the Kabgayi case - met international fair trial standards. Human Rights Watch's own monitoring of the trial concluded the proceedings amounted to a political whitewash and a miscarriage of justice.