Rwanda seeks to block talk of war crimes court at UN
The United Nations has been hit by a second war crimes court dispute in a week with Rwanda trying to stop the UN Security Council praising the International Criminal Court.
The storm comes only days after the United States boycotted a UN General Assembly debate where Serbia’s president launched a fierce attack on international war crimes courts.
Rwanda is organizing a Security Council meeting Monday on conflict prevention in Africa when traditionally the 15-member body would release a statement.
The seven ICC members on the council — Argentina, Australia, Britain, France, Guatemala, Luxembourg and South Korea — insist on acknowledging the work of the court in ending impunity for war crimes, diplomats said.
Rwanda said it would not accept a statement which mentions the ICC which it has strongly criticized, according to diplomats.
Rwanda is the council president for April and its Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo will chair the meeting with UN leader Ban Ki-moon also attending. It is expected to highlight its own experiences in bringing stability since the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people died.
ICC members on the council wanted a statement which stresses “the important role of the International Criminal Court and reiterates the importance of cooperation with the court,” said a copy obtained by AFP.
“Rwanda said it would rather have no statement at all than one which mentions the ICC,” said a UN diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is a strange position for a country which is organizing the meeting.”
“There is a clear divide in the council, seven-seven, on the ICC issue,” Rwanda’s deputy UN ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe told AFP.
He said a compromise could be found before Monday’s meeting. But western diplomats said this was unlikely.
“Given their own tragic circumstances, this is just shameful behaviour by Rwanda,” said Richard Dicker, justice specialist for Human Rights Watch.
The rights group has has been strongly criticized by the Rwandan government for its reporting on the nation. Rwanda has also slammed the ICC and the international tribunal set up to handle its genocide cases.
About half of African nations are ICC signatories but Rwanda is among a hard core who complain about its tactics. “The ICC is a political court and we have never believed in its jurisdiction,” Rwanda’s foreign minister said last month.
Rwanda’s Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama took up the attacks against international tribunals at a UN General Assembly meeting on internationl justice on Wednesday.
Karugarama said his country felt “betrayed” by the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda that handled major cases after the 1994 genocide.
The United States boycotted the General Assembly meeting which was marked by a fierce attack on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia by Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolic. He said there was “a systematic atmosphere of lynch-mobbing of everything that is Serbian.”
The comments were strongly criticized by the European Union. And UN leader Ban strongly defended the growing role of international justice at the meeting.
The international tribunals have “ushered in an age of accountability,” Ban said.
Tensions over international justice dispute could worsen. The 20th anniversary of the Security Council’s call for the creation of the Yugoslavia tribunal is in May and some countries want a special anniversary meeting.