NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–18 June 2010 – The head of the United Nations war crimes tribunal trying the ringleaders of the 1994 Rwandan genocide today welcomed Rwanda’s decision to free a defence lawyer who was arrested and detained in the African country last month.
“I welcome the information provided by the Rwandan authorities that Peter Erlinder, one of the advocates before the tribunal, was released yesterday,” said Dennis Byron, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda ( ICTR ), when he addressed the Security Council on progress towards completing cases before the tribunal.
Mr. Erlinder, a United States citizen, was arrested when he went to Rwanda in late May to take up the case of an opposition politician taken into custody, according to media reports. He was reportedly accused of denying the genocide.
Hassan Jallow, the ICTR prosecutor, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York that Mr. Erlinder was released on health grounds.
In his address to the Council today Mr. Byron singled out staff departures to seek employment elsewhere as one of the main challenges to the tribunal’s efforts to complete its work on schedule.
He also urged Member States to continue to cooperate with the ICTR as it sought fugitive genocide suspects, and singled out Kenya as a country that “continuously fails to comply with its cooperation obligations.”
Mr. Jallow later told reporters that Kenya had today invited him to visit the country in connection with continuing efforts to track and bring to justice fugitive genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga, whom the court has alleged is likely to be still hiding in Kenya.
He urged Member States to resettle those who had been acquitted by the tribunal, saying that three of those set free continued to live in the safe houses in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, where the ICTR is based, after their acquittal.
“Your government’s willingness to allow these lawfully acquitted men to settle in their territory would be a credible symbol of your countries’ commitment to international justice and rule of law,” Mr. Byron said.
For his part, the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ( ICTY ), Patrick Robinson, made an impassioned plea to the Council to help the tribunal retain experienced staff, saying they were leaving “in droves” after finding employment elsewhere because their contracts with ICTY, as currently structured, did not offer them the incentive to remain in the tribunal.
Mr. Byron also brought to the attention of the Council the need to provide victims of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia compensation to enable them rebuild their lives. “In order to contribute to lasting peace in the former Yugoslavia, justice must not only be retributive – it must be restorative,” he said.
Speaking to reporters, ICTY Prosecutor Serge Brammertz, said the arrest of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadžic, two suspects who remain at large, was the highest priority for his office.