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Rwanda genocide tribunal urged to prosecute top officers suspected of war crimes

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] must indict and try senior Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) officers suspected of war crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged in a letter [text; press release] released Monday. HRW had previously written [letter text] to Chief Prosecutor Hassan Jallow [official profile] to urge him to prosecute RPF officers suspected of killing between 25,000 and 45,000 civilians during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder], and HRW was responding to a letter [text, PDF] in which Jallow said that there was not enough evidence. In its response, HRW said:

We continue to believe that your mandate as Chief Prosecutor at the ICTR will not be fulfilled until you pursue all senior commanders responsible for atrocities committed in Rwanda in 1994. Your office has successfully pursued many senior leaders behind the genocide, but the same cannot be said for senior RPF commanders who directed the slaughter of 30,000 civilians. The fact that other genocidaires are still at large is important but does not negate the need for the ICTR to pursue senior commanders allegedly involved in serious crimes from all sides. It would be a failure of justice - not merely victor's justice - if you do not vigorously investigate and prosecute senior RPF officials because they are currently senior officials or military leaders in Rwanda.

HRW argued that failure to prosecute these suspects would destroy the tribunal's credibility.

Last month, the UN Security Council [official website] on Tuesday extended the terms [JURIST report] for ICTR judges until December 31, 2010, or until they complete their cases. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pledged his ongoing support [JURIST report] for the ICTR and stressed that the international community must continue to combat genocide. The ICTR was established to try genocide suspects for crimes occurring during the 1994 Rwandan conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in which approximately 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, died.

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