ICTR: From pragmatism to productivity, says ICG report
By Hirondelle News Agency
If during the year 2003 the International Criminal Tribunal
for Rwanda (ICTR) showed proof of "pragmatism", it will now have to submit
itself to the laws of
"productivity". That is how the International Crisis Group views the
tribunal in its report published on September 26.
"Time for Pragmatism" is the third report by the Brussels-based pressure
group. It comes after "Justice Delayed" published in 2001 and "The
Countdown", released in 2002.
It right away notes that the year 2003 was marked by a pragmatic phase that
brought credit to the international jurisdiction as it tried to overcome
three major challenges, namely; "First, to organise a programme of
investigations that would give it a realistic chance to finish all its
initial proceedings by 2008. Secondly, to set up a time-table for cases that
reflected its priorities, including the need for greater efficiency.
Thirdly, to resist pressure from the Rwandan government, which was
attempting to stymie any possibility that members of the Rwandan patriotic
army (RPA) would be tried".
Efficiency… in some cases
The report notes that in comparison with the previous years, 2003 was
characterised by a growth in productivity. The year 2001 was marked by a
single judgement while 2002 ended with a "blank", says the report.
This efficiency became apparent in the judgments of the Ntakirutimana trial
in February and that of Niyitegeka passed down in May. The report points out
that these cases were "promising examples of how trials could be carried out
in a satisfactory manner when judges take their responsibilities and
exercise strict control over proceedings, and when the prosecutors present
their cases in a precise and orderly manner".
As regards the joint trials, the records "vary".
The report condemns the media trial which it said "passed through hard times
being completed" because of "a badly prepared prosecution and deficiencies
within the presidency". It also points a finger at the "massive" Butare
trial (six accused) as taking excessively long (24 prosecution witnesses
heard in 104 days), and that of Laurent Semanza which took Trial Chamber
Three "11 months- a record" to render judgement.
The report concludes on the failure of the ICTR today "to show that it is
able to hear a case that groups more than two people". It nevertheless takes
into consideration the recent "changes" in the past few months caused by the
reorganisation of the chambers and underlines positive changes at the helm
(presidency), the replacement of four judges out of the nine, the imminent
the arrival of the ad litem (not permanent) judges. "This transition
should inspire a spirit of reform among the judges who, apart from a few
exceptions, have shown little initiative to do so".
Justice and productivity
In ICG's view, for the ICTR to be able to respect its mandate, the judges
should, from now on, "exercise firm control over proceedings, impose strict
time limits to all parties and respect the judicial calendar".
In July, the new president of the ICTR, Judge Erik Møse from Norway,
completed a judicial calendar of all chambers that will run through to
2007. "A decisive step that it is reinforced by the willingness to deal with
all the pending cases", says ICG.
The report also underlines the importance of the appointment of the ad litem
judges so as to speed up the trials. It however regards their number (four)
to be very few and that "the restrictions imposed on their fields of
competence makes their efficiency incompatible to the desired objectives".
In terms of productivity, the report welcomes the recent developments in two
trials that had threatened to restart from scratch (Butare and Military I)
as well as the beginning of two new ones, one in July, at a time when "the
tribunal in the past had a habit of going into judicial recess" (Gacumbitsi)
and the other on September 1 (Ndindabahizi).
Both trials now vie for the record of being the most rapid in the
prosecution stage, with each having taken only four weeks for the
prosecution to present its case.
According to the report, credit for these new initiatives goes to the
Tribunal's new president, , Judge Møse, a "vital driving force" that now has
to "to make sure that it becomes a collective responsibility".
In the same vein as that of the judges, according to the report, the office
of the prosecutor must also do all that is possible to achieve the same
First of all, the report draws up a record of the outgoing prosecutor, Carla
Del Ponte, pointing out that even if it highlighted the role and strategic
positions taken by international jurisdictions, two major errors continued
to haunt her tenure: badly managed office of the prosecutor in terms of
personnel ("internal squabbles, erratic leadership…"), and a general
strategy for the completion of investigations that "hindered the tribunal to
efficiently concentrate in fulfilling its mandate".
Turning to the priorities of the new prosecutor, Hassan Boubacar Jallow from
Gambia, ICG again espouses a more pragmatic approach in indictments. It
points out that "the major suspects" are among those already indicted and
demands that further indictments be put to a halt, a measure "that tallies
with the logic of the mandate" of the ICTR and "falls within the strict and
direct interpretation of the tribunal's raison d'être of judging the "main
The report adds that the judicial calendar that runs up to 2007 "only
established on the basis of those present at the Arusha detention facility",
is already tight and highlights the tribunal's incapacity to handle more
cases." It thus advises that "the prosecutor should go into tune with what
Finally, the office of the prosecutor must make sure that all completed
investigations are ready for trial, pointing out that "many indictments are
ready but the office of the prosecutor is not ready to argue the cases
before a judge". According to the authors, the credibility of the Tribunal
could be « ruined by the fact that genocide trials will not have been worthy
of their historical importance."
The registry's priority
The report winds up with the registry, suggesting an answer to the question
of management of fees for the defence. There are times when abuses occur
"whereby completely abnormal fees are charged by members of some defence
teams". These cases only concern "a small "minority, easily identifiable
from the accounts" and who must be "made public".
According to the report, the registry announced that its reforms will ready
by October, and regretted the fact that it had taken that long "despite the
fact that the problem had been identified in 2000".
The report ends with a redefinition of the "final objective: having judged
by the year 2007, the 66 people already arrested for alleged genocide
crimes". The onus lies with the judges to make sure that they "firmly and
systematically take control of the proceedings". To the security Council,
the report recommends that it puts an extra effort as regards the ad litem
The authors of the report finally conclude that these requirements for
better performance will reflect positively on the tribunal and its image,
"making it easier for it to attract both external interest and the extra
funding it seeks."