Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations

Letter to Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations

Concerning the reappointment of Carla Del Ponte as prosecutor to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Executive Office of the Secretary-General
U.N. Headquarters #S-3800
New York, NY 10017

MONTREAL, July 24, 2003

Dear Mr. Annan;

As you turn your attention to the renewal of the mandate of Carla Del Ponte as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), we write to express our grave concern that sexual violence investigations and prosecutions at the ICTR are faltering under the stewardship of Prosecutor Del Ponte.

The issue of violence against women continues to be treated as a lesser crime by Prosecutor Del Ponte-despite the longstanding and overwhelming proof of sexual violence during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. International justice for the women who endured the sexual assaults that characterized the genocide in Rwanda remains unattainable largely because Prosecutor Del Ponte continues to fail to competently investigate and indict gender crimes.

While we are heartened that over half the existing indictments charge rape, we note a number of disturbing developments during the tenure of Del Ponte that are likely to exclude or jeopardize rape indictments, and which will ultimately result in a denial of justice to Rwandan rape victims. These include:

We remain particularly concerned about the Cyangugu case where the OTP possesses strong evidence of sexual violence and has publicly promised to bring rape charges, yet has still not done so. See Prosecutor's Response to Application for Leave to File an Amicus Curae brief, May 8, 2001: "The Prosecutor advises that as soon as possible, she intends to file new indictments against accused Emmanuel Bagambiki and Samuel Imanishimwe containing rape charges." Almost two years later, these public promises have not been fulfilled by Del Ponte and the case is poised to close. Rape victims whom we interviewed in Cyangugu in January 2003 feel betrayed by her disregard of them. After making them come forward to speak about their rapes and promising them that justice would be done, her inaction amounts to a blatant denial of justice.

We are gravely concerned that unless immediate and effective steps to rectify this situation that Rwandan women will be denied justice by this international tribunal. Not only will Rwandan women not receive the justice they deserve, but if there are a string of acquittals for rape, the record of this tribunal in history will not only ignore the crimes against women, but will actually deny that these crimes occurred. That would indeed be a serious miscarriage of justice.

We urge you to consider this issue as you make your decision on whether to renew Carla Del Ponte as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.


Ariane Brunet
Coordinator, Women's Rights
Rights & Democracy
On behalf of the Coalition

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Official Website)