The Judges of Trial Chamber 1 of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), having heard reactions from the various media groups and even that of some organs of the ICTR on the Decision rendered on 18 March 1999 in "The Prosecutor versus Bernard Ntuyahaga", have authorised the Registry to make the following statement.
1. The Judges, upon the initiative of the Prosecutor, have granted her leave to withdraw the indictment.
In a motion dated 23 February 1999, the Prosecutor sought leave to withdraw the indictment she had initially preferred against Bernard Ntuyahaga. The Prosecutor, who is the master of prosecutions and decides when and where it is appropriate to proceed, has the right, under Rule 51 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, to file a motion to withdraw the indictment at any stage in the proceedings.
The Chamber has therefore granted the Prosecutor leave to withdraw the indictment. The withdrawal of the indictment is, in fact, tantamount to a decision to drop the case.
According to the general principles of law, a person who is no longer under indictment may not be deprived of his or her freedom. The Chamber has, therefore, ordered the immediate and unconditional release of Bernard Ntuyahaga.
2. The ICTR cannot defer to a national court
In an addendum to her initial motion for leave to withdraw the indictment, the Prosecutor requested that Bernard Ntuyahaga be released to the authorities of the United Republic of Tanzania, the Host Country of the ICTR.
In light of that development, the Kingdom of Belgium, which had been authorized by the Chamber to appear before it as Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) requested that Bernard Ntuyahaga be surrendered to it to be tried before its national courts upon the withdrawal of the indictment. However, Belgium indicated that, should its request not be granted, it would back the Prosecutor's request for Bernard Ntuyahaga to be released to Tanzania.
The Chamber found that it was not within its jurisdiction, as defined in the Statute and in the Rules, to order that a person who has been released because he or she is no longer under indictment, be surrendered to any State whatsoever.
The ICTR cannot "defer" to anyone. Article 8 of the Statute states clearly that the Tribunal has primacy over all national courts.