At the invitation of the Registrar of the Tribunal, Mr. Adama Dieng, twenty Rwandan senior judicial officials composed of two groups of 10 officials each visited successively the Headquarters of the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTR) in Arusha (Tanzania) from 15 – 19 and 22 – 26 September 2003. The officials, comprising Judges, Prosecutors and senior officials from the Ministry of Justice, visited the ICTR as part of the efforts to strengthen the co-operation between the Rwandan judicial system and the Tribunal in what is called “appui judiciaire” to the national Rwandese judicial bodies.
During their visit the groups held discussions with senior officials of the Tribunal including the President Judge Erik Møse, the Registrar Mr. Adama Dieng, the Judges and the Deputy Prosecutor Mr. Majola Bongani. The delegates also attended some of the trials going on at the ICTR. They were particularly interested in the Military I Trial before Trial Chamber I, presided by the President of the Tribunal Judge Erik Møse
The visit provided both the visitors and the Tribunal an important opportunity to increase information sharing and mutual understanding between the Rwandan Judicial system and the ICTR. The visitors appreciated the challenges the ICTR was facing in implementing its mandate and commended the efforts being made by the Tribunal to address these challenges. They reiterated the commitment of the Rwandan authorities to continue providing full support to the work of the Tribunal.
The talks addressed among other issues, the witness protection programme, employment opportunities, the pace of trials and the completion strategy of the Tribunal. Senior officials of the Tribunal took the opportunity to brief the visitors on the ICTR policy and how the issues were being handled by the Tribunal.
Both parties stressed the view for compensation to victims and stated that this would be a major contribution to help Rwanda to successfully recover from the genocide experience. They also underscored the need to enhance exchange of information and outreach activities in an effort to enable Rwandans to fully understand and appreciate the work of the Tribunal. Among other meetings the visitors met in an open discussion with Defense lawyers in the Military I Trial Mr. Raphael Constant (Théoneste Bagosora) and Mr. Jean Y Degli (Gratien Kabiligi). They all agreed that witnesses are an essential component in any trial and should be handled well.
The visit is part of a joint effort by the Tribunal and the Rwandese Authorities to consolidate the ICTR’s relationship with the Rwandan community in general. Similar visits of groups from other sectors of Rwandan society are envisaged.