On Thursday 12 August a group of journalists, including members of the Rwandan and Tanzanian press and representatives of regional and international press agencies, visited the Detention Facility of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. The journalists, the first to be allowed to make such a visit, expressed close interest in the day to day operation of the facility.
The United Nations Detention Facility (UNDF) was established in 1996 in order to hold persons detained by order of the Tribunal. This was the first time that a United Nations body has set up and managed such a facility.
The UNDF was specially constructed for the purpose, within the compound of the Tanzanian correctional centre in Arusha. The facility was constructed in accordance with international standards and includes 56 individual cells, a kitchen, medical facilities, a classroom and a gymnasium.
The UNDF is regularly visited by the International Committee of the Red Cross which ensures that the rules on the management of the facility and the welfare of detainees are correctly applied and that the UNDF is run in accordance with international standards.
Detainees may communicate by letter or by telephone with their families and other persons and may receive visits from family and friends under such restrictions or supervision as may be required in the interest of security. They may communicate fully and without restraint with their legal representatives and special offices have been constructed within the complex for lawyers to consult with their clients.
Of necessity the freedom of the detainees is limited, however they may associate with each other during periods of common activity such as religious observance, educational classes or physical exercise. Meals are prepared under the supervision of a qualified dietician and the Medical Officer. The Rules require that the food given to the detainees takes into account the age, health, religious and as far as possible, cultural requirements of the detainees.
At present 37 detainees are held at the UNDF. The five detainees who have already been convicted by the Trial Chambers of the Tribunal are still held in Arusha, pending the outcome of their appeals, but are kept apart from the other detainees to whom the presumption of innocence applies.
At a press conference following the media visit Mr. Jean-Pelé Fomété, Legal Adviser to the Registrar, announced that an agreement with the Republic of Benin to receive persons convicted by the ICTR would be signed on 26 August 1999. This will be the second such agreement to be signed and Mr. Fomété emphasised that countries entering in to such agreements had to undertake to comply with the same international standards as those applicable to the UNDF.