The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Me. Beth Lyons: 00316- 84403304 (Hague)/ 201-295-3103 (U.S.)

Prof. Peter Erlinder: 31(0)70 345 92 00 (Hague)/ 651-271-4616 (U.S.)

Historic First International Defense Counsel Conference Convenes at The Hague: 'The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and Its Legacy'


For the first time in history, defense lawyers
before international criminal courts convened a self-organized conference
to discuss, and publicize, the obstacles that prevent accused persons
from receiving fair trials, particularly at the International Criminal
Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The co-sponsors included 20 law-schools,
lawyers and human-rights groups
from Europe, Africa and N. America.

keynote speaker, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, questioned
the legality of UN criminal tribunals that are not authorized
under the UN Charter, stated that,
"Fairness at the ICTR is a fiction that we agree upon with the most
devastating damages...the ICTR has only prosecuted the side that lost
the war in Rwanda, while the victors have been granted total impunity...."

than 120 international criminal defense lawyers,
criminal law scholars, historians, philosophers, human rights activists,
and experts in Rwandan culture presented some 40 papers and answered
audience questions about fair trial issues, in light of
former ICTR Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte having recently documented
the manipulation of ICTR prosecutions by
the US and UK to create impunity for their ally, the
current government of Rwanda.

80 supporters of the former Rwandan government have been prosecuted, and
no prosecutions have been brought the victors of the four-year Rwanda
civil war and genocide, even though ICTR Chief Prosecutor Carla Del
Ponte publicly announced in 2003 that she had evidence to prosecute
members of the current government. France and Italy have indicted more
than 40 members of the current Rwandan government for war crimes and
genocide, including current President Paul Kagame.

criminal courts should not
be created by the UN Security Council....which is inherently a political
body," observed Austrian political philosopher
Dr. Hans Koechler. Prof. John Laughland of the Centre for the History
of Central Europe at the Sorbonne noted
examples of political interference with
UN tribunals for both Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

the Rwanda tribunal is soon going out of existence, the speakers noted
that the UN has a continuing duty to provide
on-going protection of detainees' rights, proper
jail conditions, and meaningful procedures for revision of convictions.
UN protection of the ICTR archives
in a neutral site, like other international tribunals will be necessary
to guarantee an accurate and accessible historical record.