The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has been informed by Belgian authorities that the body discovered in the Charleroi canal in Brussels, Belgium, on Saturday, 17 December 2005, has been positively identified as that of Juvénal Uwilingiyimana.
ICTR Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow expressed regret at this loss of life. “This individual, although an indictee of the Tribunal, voluntarily agreed to cooperate in the search for truth and justice for the Rwanda genocide of 1994. I convey my sincere condolences to his family.”
According to the statement from the Office of the Prosecutor, “Uwilingiyimana was indicted by ICTR on 13 June 2005, for the crimes of Conspiracy to Commit Genocide, Direct and Public Incitement to Commit Genocide, Genocide, and Murder as a Crime Against Humanity. An International Warrant of Arrest was issued on 13 August 2005.
Subsequent to the issuance of the Warrant of Arrest, ICTR investigators were informed that Uwilingiyimana wished to cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor. They disclosed to him the contents of the Indictment and the Warrant of Arrest. On confirmation of his willingness to tell the whole truth, it was agreed that the execution of the Warrant of Arrest would be held in abeyance to permit him to be interviewed regarding the events in Rwanda in 1994.
Mr. Uwilingiyimana signed a declaration setting forth the conditions under which he would be interviewed. In this document he indicated that he was doing so voluntarily and without having been subject to pressure, threats, or promises by the investigators. The document also provided that his statements could only be used by the Office of the Prosecutor if an agreement was thereafter finalized between him and the Prosecutor regarding his case at the ICTR.
Although indicted and subject to a Warrant of Arrest, Uwilingiyimana was never taken into custody and came voluntarily to all of his meetings with ICTR Investigators. Under this arrangement they interviewed him for several weeks, seeing him last on 18 November 2005. However, on 21 November 2005, he failed to appear for a scheduled interview session, and on 22 November 2005, his wife reported to Belgian police authorities that he was missing. To the knowledge of the Office of the Prosecutor he was never seen alive after 21 November.
Seven days after his disappearance, on 28 November 2005, a letter was published on the Internet that was said to have been addressed to the ICTR Prosecutor by Uwilingiyimana on 5 November 2005, indicating that he had terminated his cooperation because of pressures from the investigators to implicate high-level individuals. The letter was never delivered to the Prosecutor or to any representative of his office. Uwilingiyimana continued until Friday, 18 November to meet with the very investigators whom he had supposedly denounced in the letter.
In fact, the Prosecutor met with Mr. Uwilingiyimana on 29 October and the Chief of Prosecutions met with him on 2 November. He was very cordial and thanked them for what had been done to accommodate his work schedule and to protect his security. He raised no complaints about the investigators and expressed satisfaction about the progress that was being made in covering the events. However, he expressed concern, as he had often to the investigators, about the dangers that he and his family would face from powerful persons in the Rwandan exile community when he told the truth about these persons' responsibility for the Rwanda genocide.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has been given the mandate by the United Nations to bring to justice those bearing the greatest responsibility for the genocide and other violations of international humanitarian law that were committed in Rwanda in 1994. However, many powerful individuals exercised control over the actual killers from behind the scenes. They were not present at the massacre sites where tens of thousands of men, women and children were murdered. In many cases, the documentary record of their involvement escaped with them into exile.
Proving the guilt of those bearing the greatest responsibility has often required the assistance of insiders, who themselves are guilty of involvement in the crimes. At the ICTR, the Prosecutor has generally required these individuals to plead guilty before the Tribunal or admit their guilt in a national proceeding and be sentenced to a term in prison. In the process they may receive some reduction of penalty in recognition of their essential contribution to justice and reconciliation.
However, by cooperating with the Prosecutor such individuals mark themselves forever as traitors in some parts of their community and run the risk that vengeance will be taken against them or against their families.
In this case the Office of the Prosecutor undertook extraordinary measures to provide that Uwilingiyimana could meet with the investigators in circumstances that would not reveal his cooperation to those who might wish him harm. If it is determined that he was the victim of a homicide it will be clear that the protective measures were inadequate. It will also be clear that those who come forth to assist the process of justice must have the benefit of every reasonable measure of protection that is within the capacity of this Tribunal and the member states of the United Nations.
If the cause of death is determined to be homicide, the Office of the Prosecutor expresses the fervent hope that Belgian authorities will be able to arrest and try those responsible for a crime that obstructs justice for the victims of the Rwanda genocide.”