- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

THE HAGUE (Agence France-Presse) — Rwandan authorities are putting pressure on Carla Del Ponte to step down as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the prosecutor’s spokeswoman said yesterday.

“For several weeks, the Rwandan authorities have exerted pressure behind the scenes at the U.N. Security Council to drop” Mrs. Del Ponte as prosecutor of the Rwanda tribunal, spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said.

“The objective is to stop the prosecutor from investigating possible crimes committed by members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front,” Mrs. Hartmann said.

Mrs. Del Ponte is the chief prosecutor for both the Rwanda tribunal and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, based in The Hague.

The RPF, which has since become the regular army in Rwanda, had fought those responsible for the 1994 genocide, which took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans. But the RPF is believed to have carried out atrocities during the conflict as well.

Relations between the Rwandan government and the tribunal have been tense for several months because of the impending investigation. The Rwandan authorities have threatened several times to stop their cooperation with the U.N. court.

On Wednesday, a group of 60 nongovernmental organizations operating in Rwanda issued a collective appeal to the United Nations, saying Mrs. Del Ponte should not run the Rwanda tribunal because she had not been effective enough in bringing to justice those who orchestrated the genocide.

Diplomatic sources in The Hague said two countries on the U.N. Security Council appear ready to bow to Rwandan pressure, in what could signal a shift in the world body’s backing of Mrs. Del Ponte.

Mrs. Del Ponte will be in New York on Monday to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan “to stress why it is important for the prosecutor to safeguard her independence, and why it is important that one prosecutor deals with both international tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia,” Mrs. Hartmann said.

The Rwanda tribunal, based in Arusha, Tanzania, was created in 1994. Mrs. Del Ponte, a Swiss citizen, was elected as its prosecutor in September 1999 for a four-year period that is up for renewal.

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