Friday, December 19, 2008

The Hunt: Me and My War Criminals

Hirondelle newsagency Arusha 02-4-08 writes about this book of Carla del Ponte on the obstruction of the ICTR by Rwanda's RPF regime. This book will be out in english early 2009.

"We knew that to open an investigation into the Rwandan Patriotic Front will irritated Kigali, because President Paul Kagame and other Tutsi leaders based a great part of their claim to legitimacy on the victory of the RPF against the genocidaires in 1994," writes Carla del Ponte.

"They presented their conquest of the country as a just fight, to put an end to genocide", she adds.

"We knew that the government was against us", she says. In spite of that as of 2000, the prosecution opened a "secret" investigation.

"Rwandan authorities already controlled each stage of our investigations", she writes. "We knew that the intelligence service of Rwanda had received monitoring equipment from the United States which was used for phone calls, faxes and the internet. We suspected that the authorities had also infiltrated our computer network and placed agents among the Rwandan interpreters and other members of the team in Kigali.

Walpen [Laurent Walpen, former chief of investigations for the prosecution] also knew that the United States, for obvious reasons, did not want that the investigators to be equipped with the latest encryption Swiss telephones. In other words, the Rwandans knew, in real time, what the investigators of the tribunal were doing.

"In Kigali, 9 December 2000 I personally informed President Kagame that the office of the prosecutor had opened a case against him for allegations concerning the Rwandan Patriotic Front, for war crimes committed as Hutus committed the genocide. The meeting took place in his modest office of the presidential complex (...) the investigators say that evidence was collected on 13 episodes during which in 1994 members of the RPF would have massacred civilians as troops advanced through Rwanda. Kagame neither approved nor denied that these incidents had taken place", Del Ponte discloses.

Carla del Ponte then proposed to start with the case of the murdered priests in Gakurazo and ended up convincing, at least she believed so, the Rwandan president will cooperate. With the chief of investigations, the Swiss woman went to the office of the military prosecutor. "Rwigamba was in uniform, very courteous. Rather than to agree to give us documentation, Rwigamba informed us that he was leading the investigations and was not under the jurisdiction of the tribunal, the co-operation was not always forthcoming." I imagine that before calling President Kagame, she writes, if he did it, Rwigamba spoke with his military superiors, including the former commanders of the Rwandan Patriotic Front who had reasons to fear seeing their name on an arrest warrant.

In 2001, Rwanda blocked once again the transfer of witnesses to Arusha, Tanzania (the seat of the tribunal). New procedures had been set up by Kigali: A "ridiculous" case of bureaucracy says Carla del Ponte, who only understood later the real subject of the pressure. At a new meeting with President Kagame, she complains: "Your military prosecutor is not cooperating (...) Kagame seemed surprised. He turned to the officer and said to him in a hard tone: "Cooperate with prosecutor del Ponte." Rwanda never cooperated again.

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