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UN to Appoint Separate Prosecutors for Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia War Crimes Tribunals - 2003-07-29

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has formally asked the United Nations Security Council to replace the chief prosecutor for the Rwanda war crimes tribunal.

Mr. Annan made his recommendation in a letter to Security Council president, Spanish Ambassador Inocencio Arias.

After consulting with council members, the secretary-general requested that the diplomats relieve Carla del Ponte from her post as chief prosecutor of the Rwanda court.

In Mr. Annan's words "It is now time to split the positions of prosecutor of the International [Criminal] Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia" and Rwanda "so that they are occupied by different people."

He said separating the job is in the interest of "efficiency and effectiveness" as the courts attempt to wrap up their work. The secretary-general revealed his decision one day after meeting with Ms. del Ponte, the Swiss diplomat in charge of both U.N. war crimes tribunals.

Ms. del Ponte's four year term ends in September.

In his letter, the secretary-general said Ms. del Ponte should remain the chief prosecutor for the Hague-based court trying alleged perpetrators of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, including former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovic.

Mr. Annan did not name a possible successor. But he recommended that Ms. del Ponte's deputy prosecutor, Bongani Christopher Majola, fill the position as chief prosecutor of the Rwanda tribunal until a new appointment is made.

The Rwandan Tutsi government has opposed Ms. del Ponte as chief prosecutor and has refused to cooperate with the court. The court is prosecuting members of the Hutu ethnic group accused of slaughtering about 800.000 Tutsis in 1994. So far, the court has tried alleged Hutu perpetrators, but Ms. del Ponte has said that she intends to investigate the Tutsi army for reprisal killings.

Meanwhile, the trial began on Tuesday of a former mayor in Rwanda accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, extermination, murder and rape. A former journalist from the British Broadcasting Corporation testified, describing the many dead bodies he witnessed while covering the Rwanda genocide.