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Del Ponte loses Rwanda mandate

Del Ponte has been stripped of her Rwanda mandate Keystone

The United Nations Security Council has voted to replace Switzerland’s Carla Del Ponte as chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda.

This content was published on August 28, 2003 - 18:01

Del Ponte will retain her mandate as chief prosecutor for the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, based in The Hague.

For the past four years Del Ponte has been chief prosecutor for both the Rwanda court - set up to prosecute those involved in the 1994 genocide - and the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Her joint term expires on September 14. Del Ponte, who fought to retain her dual mandate, indicated that she would continue in her position at The Hague.

"She will be available for a second four-year term," spokeswoman Florence Hartmann told swissinfo on Thursday.

"She is a bit unhappy with the split, but it's something she accepts as it is a decision of the Security Council."

The United States-drafted resolution, which was unanimously approved, argued that the tribunals could function more efficiently with their own prosecutors.

This was a view shared by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who made a formal recommendation to the council on July 29 to relieve Del Ponte of her Rwanda mandate.

Annan said in his letter that he believed the joint mandate was too much for one person.

Thursday's resolution "welcomes the intention" of Annan to reappoint Del Ponte as prosecutor for the Hague-based tribunal.

Criticism from Rwanda

The recommendation that the two functions be split follows complaints that Del Ponte had not given the Rwanda tribunal, based in Arusha, Tanzania, as much attention as her work in The Hague.

“This genocide has been dealt with by a part-time prosecutor. She hardly spends 30 days per year in Arusha,” said Valentine Rujwabiza, Rwandan ambassador to Switzerland.

While the court trying those involved in the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia has brought prominent figures to trial, including the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, the war crimes tribunal in Rwanda has struggled to make headway.

This sparked criticism from Rwanda that the entire judicial process was inefficient.

“The main concern is about the tribunal itself and its very slow pace. After nine years, the tribunal has only judged 15 people for a genocide in which one million people were killed,” Rujwabiza told swissinfo.

Lack of cooperation

But Del Ponte, who pleaded her case for keeping the Rwandan mandate before the Security Council, said the Rwandan government was also to blame for the slow progress.

“I would like less political involvement. When investigations are opened, the judges should decide the case, not the politicians,” Del Ponte told Swiss television at the end of July.

“We try to keep politics out of it, but over the years I’ve seen how hard that is.”

Del Ponte claimed the Tutsi-led government obstructed her work after she tried to investigate alleged atrocities committed by members of the Tutsi army.

Rwanda has denied these claims, arguing that the military authorities themselves have been looking into these allegations since 1995.

Arguing the case for keeping her mandate in Rwanda, Del Ponte said that drafting in a new chief prosecutor after nine years of investigations would slow the process further.

She also warned that separating the two positions would weaken the influence each prosecutor has over their respective proceedings.

But Rwanda believes the introduction of a new chief prosecutor will not significantly delay the tribunal’s work.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The United Nations Security Council has voted to split Carla Del Ponte’s job as chief prosecutor, taking away responsibility for Rwanda and allowing her to concentrate on the Balkans.

Del Ponte’s four-year term as joint chief prosecutor for the war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda expires on September 14.

The United States led calls for her to be replaced at the tribunal in Rwanda.

The Rwandan government accused Del Ponte of not spending enough time on the 1994 genocide investigations and of running the tribunal inefficiently.

Del Ponte said the Rwandan government had stopped cooperating with her investigations.

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