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Rwanda Prosecutor Worried Genocide Suspects Could Escape Justice - 2003-10-13

Rwanda's prosecutor general says he is concerned that hundreds of genocide suspects could escape prosecution, if the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda wraps up its work at the end of next year, without making provisions for bringing those suspects to justice.

Gerald Gahima, the Rwandan prosecutor general, says as many as 350 suspected leaders of the 1994 genocide have escaped to neighboring African countries and to Europe, where, he says, they are avoiding prosecution by the tribunal.

The tribunal was set up by the U.N. Security Council to prosecute those responsible for the ethnic violence and genocide, in which ethnic Hutu militamen killed hundreds-of-thousands of minority Tutsis and Hutu moderates. The court is expected to wrap up its investigation next year.

Speaking at the United Nations Monday, Mr. Gahima said the tribunal's conclusion strategy does not provide a mechanism for investigations to continue. "The biggest problem we have with the conclusion strategy is the failure of the plan to address the problem as to how hundreds of people who bear a great responsibility for the genocide in Rwanda, and are now at large -- fugitives in many countries, will be brought to justice, once the tribunal stops operation," he said.

The Tanzania-based court has convicted at least seven suspects. Last month, the U.N. Security Council appointed Gambian judge Hassan Bubacar Jallow as prosecutor for the tribunal.

Rwanda itself has been conducting genocide trials since 1996, and 6,500 people have been convicted of crimes related to genocide there to date. Eighty-thousand suspects are in Rwandan jails.

Mr. Gahima asked the international community to provide financial assistance to Rwanda, so that prosecutors there can try the remaining open cases. He called on the U.N. Security Council to find a way to ensure that those responsible do not evade justice.