Confessions - a key to wrapping up trials in ICTR

26 March 2006 by Thierry Cruvellier and our correspondent in Arusha

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is on the verge of concluding at least two guilty pleas, including one from Joseph Serugendo, former head of the Interahamwe militia who appeared in a closed session on March 15. Some of the detainees are preparing to follow his lead, while others are watching with interest to see the outcome of the negotiations with the prosecutor. The subject is still a sensitive one, and the UN tribunal is nervously pursuing this strategy it deems essential to concluding all its trials before 2008.

On March 15, a closed hearing was secretly held in Arusha. Only one accused appeared – Joseph Serugendo, ex-leader of the Interahamwe and former technical chief at the Radio-télévision libre des mille collines (RTLM) station. Serugendo was arrested on September 19, 2005. Since then, he has been held separately from the other ICTR detainees. The office of the prosecutor acknowledges negotiating with him. “The negotiations are progressing in a satisfactory manner and the results will be announced when the time is right,” said the chief of prosecutions, Stephen Rapp, without any further details. Until these types of negotiations are concluded, they are always a sensitive subject. However, they have never been the subject of a hearing so secretive that is not even listed on the court’s calendar. Neither the prosecution nor the defense is saying a word, due to what they call “security reasons.”

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