U.N. panel to recommend trying Rwandans for genocide, diplomats say

September 29, 1994|By New York Times News Service

GENEVA -- After delays that have drawn criticism from many quarters, a commission set up by the U.N. Security Council is to recommend that an international tribunal prosecute charges of genocide and other crimes against humanity in Rwanda, diplomats said yesterday.

The Security Council is expected to act quickly once it has the commission's report, which officials said would be made public today.

A Security Council resolution on the tribunal, drafted by the United States, states that "systematic, widespread and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law, including acts of genocide, have been committed in Rwanda."

In May, Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali described the killings in Rwanda as genocide; a month later, another U.N. report did the same.

Washington already has sent five investigators to Rwanda, including an FBI agent, a federal prosecutor and lawyers from the State Department, to begin gathering evidence.

No one ever has been prosecuted for genocide under the U.N. convention, adopted after World War II, when the word genocide was coined.

This would be only the second international tribunal to prosecute war crimes since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II. The first was set up to prosecute atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia.

Under the U.S. draft resolution, the Rwanda tribunal would be an outgrowth of the Yugoslav tribunal, which sits in The Hague, which Washington sees as quicker and more efficient than establishing a completely separate tribunal.

The U.S. resolution does call for a separate prosecutor and investigative staff for Rwanda. U.N. officials say the investigations could cost $60 million.

The members of the special commission are Atsu-Koffi Amega, a former Supreme Court justice in Togo; Haby Dieng, assistant attorney general in Guinea; and Salifou Fomba, a law professor in Mali.

The commission's recommendation and the U.S. resolution are aimed primarily at prosecuting those responsible for this "genocide," as the commission calls it.

But the American resolution calls for the prosecution of "all persons" who violated "international humanitarian law" in Rwanda. This would allow the prosecution of members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which is dominated by Tutsi, for massacres and the killings of civilians.

The commission's report will charge the front with having committed crimes during the war. But its draft report sets a cut-off date of July 15, which would exempt from prosecution any killings of Hutu by the front since it assumed power.

The international tribunal is expected to prosecute only the architects of genocide and major commanders.

It is going to be extremely difficult for the tribunal to get the people it seeks to appear before the court. Most are in Zaire, and there are doubts that Zaire would arrest them and hand them over.

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