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International Police Organization to Work with Genocide Court for Rwanda

INTERPOL is working with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to step up efforts to capture the remaining 18 genocide fugitives. As Arjun Kohli reports for VOA from Nairobi, Rwandan officials say 13 years is already too long for the genocide suspects to remain free.

The international police organization, INTERPOL, says it is taking sterner measures to capture criminals at large, 13 years after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The brutal killings between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi tribes in Rwanda left hundreds of thousands dead.

A list compiled by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, better known by its acronym ICTR, says there are 18 fugitives it would like to put on trial.

A Rwandan presidential advisor, Alfred Ndahiro told VOA the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha has completed just 34 genocide cases. This, he says, is inexcusable.

Ndahiro says the INTERPOL effort is being stepped up just one year before the self-imposed U.N. deadline for the court's closure.

"I think it is too little too late," said Ndahiro. "They have had 13 years to arrest those people. They are somewhere. They are not out there in the sky. So really, I think too little too late. I think they are under pressure now that they should be winding up very soon and they have to say something I guess."

Rwanda recently asked France to extradite Isaac Kamali, a French citizen who was arrested for genocide crimes.

ICTR spokesman Roland Amoussouga says the Kamali arrest highlights the importance of the court's agreement with INTERPOL.

"This kind of pledge came just a few weeks after INTERPOL assisted in coordinating the 36 hour arrest of Rwandan genocide fugitive by the name of Isaac Kamali in France," said Amoussouga. "He was arrested initially in the USA on a French passport, so he was sent back to France and he was arrested."

"This is a very important development, which underlines the importance of the future cooperation that we are going to get from INTERPOL in apprehending the remaining 18 fugitives, who are wanted by the ICTR before the closure of the tribunal in December 2008," he added.

Amoussouga says the 2008 deadline for trials makes it even more important to capture fugitives for trial. The court will hear appeal cases until 2010.

"We have been able to finish complete the trial process for 34, and 26 are currently going through the trial process, and less than 10 remain to be tried by us," he said. "Out of the 18 at large, we do intend to have trial process for some of them, given the time frame we have remaining, and the remaining fugitives will certainly be transfered to member states to stand trial. We want to ensure that nobody will escape justice by the end of the lifetime of the tribunal."

The International Tribunal is not the only body bringing criminals to justice for their genocide crimes. Ndahiro says the Rwandan judiciary and the community based gachacha courts will work until justice is reached.

"We cannot just allow them to wander the world with blood of innocent people on their hands," said Ndahiro. "I do not think that would be acceptable. So it will go on for as long as it takes. But I think the Rwandan government is determined to bring them to book."

The international community established the ICTR with a mandate for all war crimes committed in 1994, in Rwanda and elsewhere. INTERPOL says efforts by each of its 200 member countries to arrest genocide suspects are crucial for justice to be served.