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Del Ponte set to lose Rwanda mandate

Del Ponte nabbed Milosevic, but her scorecard on Rwanda is less impressive Keystone Archive

Switzerland’s Carla del Ponte looks set to lose her position as chief prosecutor for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

This content was published on July 29, 2003 - 15:09

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, says she should be relieved of her Rwanda mandate, but should continue to head up the war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia.

On Tuesday, Annan made his formal recommendation to the 15-member UN Security Council, which has the final say in the matter.

Since becoming chief prosecutor in 1999, Del Ponte has built up a reputation as a fearsome and stubborn crime fighter. She was instrumental in bringing the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, to trial.

But she has faced mounting criticism from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Rwanda for failing to track down suspected war criminals of the 1994 genocide.

Annan said in a letter to the 15-nation Security Council that it was time to split the prosecutor's job into two positions "so that they are occupied by different people."

He said that as the two tribunals try to end their work, it was in the interest of "efficiency and effectiveness" that each has it own prosecutor.

Annan added that he had no candidates yet to replace Del Ponte but in the interim the deputy prosecutor for Rwanda, Bongani Christopher Majola, should do the job. Del Ponte's four-year term expires in September.

Stronger influence

Del Ponte has previously said she would fight to keep the joint mandate. Her spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, says separating the two positions would weaken their influence.

“A joint prosecutor is stronger and has more authority,” she told swissinfo. “It can press the state to cooperate more easily.”

Observers say the Council’s five permanent members, including the United States and Britain, have indicated they support two separate mandates.

Del Ponte’s four-year term expires on September 15.

Rwandan genocide

Despite her success in bringing suspected war criminals to trial at The Hague – the seat of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia – Del Ponte’s record in Rwanda is less glowing.

So far, only 15 cases relating to the Rwandan genocide have gone to court. The genocide left over 800,000 people dead when the Hutu majority rose up against the Tutsi people.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is based in Arusha, Tanzania, has also faced numerous administrative problems since its inception in 1995.

But Hartmann says a number of investigations have been held up by resistance from the government.

“There have been steps made by the authorities in [the Rwandan capital] Kigali, including pressure on the prosecutor to prevent some of the investigations she was carrying out.”

She added Del Ponte had encountered the most resistance from the Tutsi-led government during her investigations of suspected possible atrocities committed by the Tutsi army.

Del Ponte complained of the Rwandan authorities’ lack of cooperation to the Security Council last year, but the government rejects the claim.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was formed by the UN Security Council in 1993, to try those involved in the atrocities in the Balkans since 1991.
The ICTY is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was formed by the Security Council in 1995 to try those suspected of involvement in the 1994 genocide.
The ICTR is based in Arusha, Tanzania.

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