Accessibility links

Breaking News

Del Ponte Argues Against Split Between Rwanda, Former Yugoslavia War Crime Tribunals - 2003-08-09

The U.N. Security Council met Friday to debate whether or not to appoint a separate chief prosecutor for the Rwanda war crimes tribunal. Carla del Ponte, the current chief prosecutor for courts investigating war crimes in both Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia argued against the split.

Late last month, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended that the Security Council replace Ms. del Ponte as chief prosecutor for the Rwanda tribunal when her term expires in mid-September. Mr. Annan says the efficiency and effectiveness of the courts would be improved if each had its own chief.

But Ms. del Ponte, a Swiss judge, wants to hold onto her job, arguing that any change at this point could damage the judiciary process.

Mr. Annan has recommended that Ms. del Ponte's deputy prosecutor, Bongani Christopher Majola, oversee the Rwandan tribunal until a new appointment is made. However, Ms. del Ponte questions whether Mr. Majola has enough experience for the job.

"We are in the final rush of the investigations by both tribunals. It is important that the prosecutor is a prosecutor who is experienced as a prosecutor," she said. "It must not be just a good international lawyer or good judge. It must be, in my personal opinion, a prosecutor who is experienced on prosecution."

Ms. del Ponte says the Tutsi-dominated government of Rwanda is pushing for her replacement in the investigation of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were slaughtered by the Hutu ethnic group. But Ms. del Ponte has said she also intends to investigate the Tutsi army's role in reprisal killings.

The prosecutor of Rwanda's Supreme Court, Gerald Gahima, held a news conference in New York during the Security Council discussion and called for Ms. del Ponte's replacement, saying the current court is expensive, slow and inefficient.

"The tribunal is not achieving the objectives for which it was established, namely to promote stability, to promote reconciliation in our country," he said. "Because it is so ineffective the tribunal is not having the effect it was intended to have on our society."

The Security Council is expected to consider a draft resolution on whether to have a separate tribunal for Rwanda, which is now based in Arusha, Tanzania.

The tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is based in the Hague, the Netherlands.

Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser says the Council is leaning toward the secretary- general's recommendation to split the courts.

"In principle we have expressed that we are originally we are in favor of the separation of the Tribunals because we thought that from the beginning there should have been two tribunals," he said. "But now we just have to ponder if this is the right moment to do if that are the right circumstances to do it."

Several Council members say they expect the Council to reach a consensus on the issue and vote on a resolution by the end of next week.