Politics shouldn`t be a hideout for the fugitives

Posted: December 29, 2010 in Evidence Material
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BY RICHARD MGAMBA–The Guardian 1st October 2010

Rwanda`s Chief Prosecutor, Martin Ngoga was in Dar es Salaam this week, among other things, to gather evidence on some prominent figures who have been wiring money to Hutu rebels in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

During his stay in Dar es Salaam, The Guardian on Sunday’s Managing Editor, Richard Mgamba interviewed him about various issues ranging from the credibility of the judiciary in Rwanda to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda based in Arusha, Tanzania. Read more:

Q: So far, on behalf of the Rwandan government, are you satisfied with the work done by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, especially when comparing the resources invested in with the final outcome?

A: Let me just mention that I had a privilege to represent my country at the ICTR for four years. I prefer to approach the question about the ICTR in two ways. One, we should never compare the work of the ICTR as an institution with Rwanda’s judiciary. In other words, each system is a stand alone system; in Rwanda, for example, with a very small fraction of resources and limited human resources, we have done a lot.

The ICTR has done a credible job in arresting and prosecuting the high profile individuals who masterminded the genocide in 1994; some of these were out of reach for Rwanda after they fled to disparate countries, where arresting them would have been difficult for us.

But the ICTR, being an international organization structured within the United Nations, managed to collaborate with the international community to arrest some high-profile suspects. We are not even sure if the international community would have corporated with Rwanda the way they did for the ICTR. So the mere fact that those people have been apprehended and brought to justice in Arusha — it doesn’t matter how each individual case was prosecuted, the most important thing is that international arrangement.

Still, they could have done better, basing on the massive resources allocated to them. If you look at the resources invested and time spent in dealing with these cases, it’s hard to be fully satisfied. By the time I was representing my country there in 2003, the minimum the ICTR could get was $150 million annually for its operations budget and this is a huge budget for an institution.

If you also look at the time spent in investigating and prosecuting each individual case, for a national prosecutor like me, we have been saying if this is what it costs and takes to deliver justice, then justice is too costly. However, you must remember that’s the UN-structured institution that operates according to the agreed system and modus operandi.

They have done some work, but they could have done more, and faster, with the resources allocated to them.

Q: Basing on your experience with the snail-paced justice system delivered by the ICTR, if you were asked to choose a judiciary system to prosecute genocide perpetrators in any African country, which way would you go?

A: I would prefer a system in which the UN assists the judiciary system existing in those countries in which crimes were committed by building individual and institutional capacity to enable them to handle all cases against humanity. In so doing you are not only helping these countries to deliver fair and timely justice, but you are also building a legacy so that even when the cases end, there will be a strong judiciary system that can still play a crucial role in serving the people.

For instance if you could spend just half of what the ICTR received to establish the judiciary system as well providing technical and human resources assistance, we in Rwanda could have been able to do much more than what was done in Arusha. However that’s the UN arrangement and that’s how it works.

What we have in Arusha is a temporary thing and when it has finished its work, there won’t be any legacy left behind, especially within the Rwandan judiciary or even within the host country’s judiciary system.

For instance in Sierra Leone, the UN has established a court within the country’s judiciary system in order to prosecute those who committed war crimes…this is what needs to be done. You set up a system within the national judiciary system and then give it technical and financial support to perform the job.

Q: The ICTR has failed to arrest and prosecute key players who masterminded the genocide like Felician Kabuga and associates, despite huge resources spent on investigating and trailing the suspects; what are your comments on this failure? What do you think is the cause?

A: Unfortunately we have not been able to access the ICTR’s tracking system, partly because we are overwhelmed by what we are doing in Rwanda and we leave the UN court to do what they should be doing. Consistently, ICTR prosecutors have alleged that Kabuga is in Kenya — though we as the Rwandan government have no evidence of that — but no arrest has been made for all these years. So whose failure is it?

I think it’s a collective failure. It could be partly the ICTR because of its limited tracking capacity to trace and arrest Kabuga, but also whichever country is hosting him is failing the course of justice. I think when the time comes that Kabuga is arrested, those who have been responsible for his hiding should feel ashamed and should also feel responsible for the injustice they have committed.

It’s not only Kabuga who has been on the run; we have many fugitives of genocide who are hosted in various countries in East Africa, Africa and the rest of the globe, enjoying impunities. We have tried to approach these countries, and every individual country has responded indifferently. But whoever is part of this should be ashamed because at the end of the day, justice should be delivered as part of the healing process for those who lost their loved ones and their properties during the 1994 genocide.

Q: Going back to Rwanda, nearly 16 years after genocide, how independent and strong is your judicial system?

A: Well that’s a big challenge and we have been criticized by different circles about the independence of our judiciary as well as our competency. But let me assure you that we had massive reforms in 2003, which was a result of three years of consulting with key stakeholders in Rwanda and outside Rwanda.

We have the Judiciary Reforms Commission which travelled in different countries mostly those which have reformed their system recently to learn best practices from them. We have also invited international legal experts from Tanzania, Kenya and elsewhere to come and share with us their expertise of how Rwanda should structure and establish an independent judicial system.

Let me remind you that we were not only trying to rebuild a fragile judiciary, but were also doing it from a total breakdown caused by the 1994 genocide. After the genocide, the entire country had very few qualified magistrates and we have had to work hard to train more people to try thousands of pending cases.

We also overhauled almost everything to establish a modern and dynamic judiciary system formed by young professionals. We continue to face serious challenges like any other country in the developing world, but for the time being, we are on the right track and our judiciary is credible. The fact that we have managed to move out of the crisis that we inherited is proof that we have achieved remarkable progress in reforming our judiciary.

In 1995-96, we had only 12 qualified magistrates who survived the genocide, and these were the only personnel expected to deliver justice to over 200,000 cases pending before the courts countrywide. But today we are in a situation where we are able to conclude criminal cases within six months; it’s the same in commercial cases. We have only a small backlog, but in general we have built a very strong judiciary system in Rwanda.

The challenges are there, and we are ready for them, because the biggest mistake we can ever make is to be complacent with what we have achieved so far. We have constitutional arrangements that provide a strong and independent judiciary system through a credible legal framework.

Q: Rwanda last week arrested the opposition leader, Victoria Ingabire, in a move seen by international human rights activists as an attempt to silence the voice of the opposition party in your country; what are your views on this? Why did you arrest her?

A: Yes you are right there have been at least more than one protest being led by Human Rights Watch, which has been very critical in everything we do, not only about Ingabire. I think they are even ready to dispute that the sun rises from the east and sets in the west if it was Rwanda saying that. But coming to the issue of Madam Ingabire, her case was first brought to our attention as well as the international community by the United Nations.

It was the UN panel of investigators in the atrocities committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo that first accused her of collaborating with the terrorist rebel group, the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) in the Eastern part of Congo DR. Calling it a terror group is an understatement, given the atrocities it has committed for years in Eastern Congo. So for the first time it was the UN that linked Madam Ingabire with the terrorist group operating in Eastern Congo, not the government of Rwanda.

It’s not Rwanda that listed the FDLR as a terrorists group, but the international community, and it’s the same organization that revealed Ingabire’s dealings with the terrorists in DRC. In fact the United States of America was the first country to declare the FDLR a terrorist group.

Since then, there have been five resolutions within the UN declaring and condemning the FDLR as a terrorist group. There are at least three people who have been arrested in connection with FDLR activities, and one of the senior commanders was arrested last week in Europe.

So why is it an issue when the government of Rwanda has decided to act on the UN reports by arresting Ingabire in connection with FDLR activities? Apart from what we have in terms of evidence, it’s the UN that came out with very damning evidence linking her with a group that has committed crimes against humanity. Why is it an issue now? Is she above the law?

Attempting to join politics after working with a terrorist group shouldn’t shield her from the law. We have evidence to prosecute her, and she will be taken to court according to our laws because she committed crimes against the Rwandan government by working and supporting the rebels who fight to overthrow the government.

People should go into politics when they have a clean record; politics shouldn’t be a hideout for the fugitives who have killed just to get power. You can’t just jump into politics to evade the judicial accountability.

We have the evidence against Madame Ingabire that she has been part of an FDLR project, and we have witnesses who were arrested by the Burundian government. They have worked with Madam Ingabire within the FDLR and they are ready to testify. This is apart from the evidence unearthed by UN Panel of Investigators.

Source: http://www.ippmedia.com

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