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RWANDA: UN court, Kigali resolve differences

KIGALI, 20 September 2006 (IRIN) - The Rwandan government and the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have resolved their differences, which had prompted Rwanda to threaten to cut ties with the court, Rwandan Attorney-General Martin Ngoga said.

He made the announcement at a news conference in the capital, Kigali, after a meeting on Tuesday between a delegation from the Tanzania-based tribunal and senior Rwandan prosecutors.

Rwanda had issued an ultimatum on Thursday, giving the tribunal a "last chance" to take action against members of its staff accused of participating in the 1994 genocide or risk all ties with the UN court being cut.

A Rwandan lawyer, Callixte Gakwaya, who had represented one of the genocide suspects on trial before the tribunal, and who was the target of the Rwandan government threat, resigned on Monday. Rwanda had said Gakwaya was wanted in the country for his role in the 1994 genocide, which it estimates resulted in 937,000 deaths.

On 2 September, Tanzanian police arrested Gakwaya, who was lead counsel for accused former militia leader Yusuf Munyakazi. Gakwaya was released four days later as Rwanda prepared a formal extradition request. Rwanda accused the tribunal of instigating the release and asked the court to dismiss Gakwaya or it would withdraw its cooperation.

Ngoga said on Tuesday his office was aware of Gakwaya's current whereabouts. "We are convinced that he is in Maputo [Mozambique] and we will be pursuing him," Ngoga said.

At least 80 percent of the witnesses at the tribunal come from Rwanda. In the past, trials at the court have almost come to a standstill after Rwanda withdrew its cooperation.

Ngoga said the issue of at least 11 other tribunal employees wanted for genocide in Rwanda had also been settled.

"The tribunal has assured us that nine of them have left the court in recent days while the remaining two are being investigated," he said.

The tribunal's deputy registrar, Everard O'Donnell, said one important issue that had been resolved was "a system to refine security checks" on prospective employees of the court.

Meanwhile, the trial of a Rwandan musician, Simon Bikindi, 52, began on Monday in Arusha, the tribunal's headquarters. Bikindi, who is also a former official in the Ministry of Sports, denied six counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. He first appeared before the tribunal in April 2002 after being arrested in the Netherlands in 2001.

The tribunal's chief prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, said, "Bikindi used his talents to perpetuate evil."

Bikindi's songs were played during the genocide on the "hate radio", Radio Television de Milles Collines, Jallow said. Bikindi also spoke at public gatherings; composed and performed songs extolling Hutu solidarity and characterising the Tutsi as enslavers of the Hutu.

Jallow said Bikindi participated in the military training of Interahamwe militiamen in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

The tribunal has made 30 judgments since its inception in 1994. Trials are ongoing for 27 other suspects. The UN Security Council has given the tribunal till 2008 to complete all cases before it.

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Theme (s): Human Rights,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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