Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations

News Release

Rwandan Rape Victims Denied Justice by U.N. Tribunal

Montreal, March 10, 2003

Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is denying rape victims justice. The record of the prosecutor shows no commitment to develop evidence and bring charges despite the overwhelming proof of sexual violence during the 1994 genocide, announced the Coalition on Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations, following their annual meeting in Montreal.

"Thousands of Rwandan rape victims, many of whom are now dying of AIDS, continue to wait expectantly for justice from the ICTR," said Jean-Louis Roy, President of Rights & Democracy, the institution coordinating the Coalition. "But the record of Prosecutor Del Ponte seems to indicate that she does not care."

During the Rwandan genocide, thousands of women were individually raped, gang-raped, raped with objects such as sharpened sticks or gun barrels, held in sexual slavery or sexually mutilated. Military and political leaders at the national and local levels, as well as heads of militias, encouraged or permitted killings and sexual violence to further their genocidal goals. They therefore bear responsibility for these abuses under international law.

During Del Ponte's four-year tenure, there has been a decline in the number of new indictments that contain sexual violence charges, as well as a lack of commitment to adequately developing the evidence in cases where rape charges were previously brought. Of the twenty-five indictments filed by the current prosecutor, only eight allege crimes of sexual violence. Some cases are moving forward without rape charges, even where the prosecutor is in possession of adequate evidence, such as in the Cyangugu case. In addition, cases with rape charges are being brought without adequate investigations to develop the evidence and ensure the requisite standard of proof. A sexual assault team in the investigations division, established under the former prosecutor, has been disbanded under Del Ponte, and prosecutions of sexual violence have faltered ever since.

The Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations urged the ICTR Prosecutor to end her neglect of rape victims and to fulfill her legal mandate by investigating and prosecuting sexual violence crimes fully and fairly. It called on her to reinstate the sexual assault investigations team with competent and experienced investigators.

The Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations also urged the U.N. to take into consideration Prosecutor Del Ponte's dismal record in failing to prosecute sexual violence crimes when they deliberate her renewal in September 2003.

Since 1996, Rights & Democracy, through its Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations, has been monitoring the prosecution of sex crimes at the ICTR.

Certainly, advances have been made in recognizing women’s rights. The legal framework is increasingly responsive to the experiences of women and girls in conflict, especially in cases of sexual violence, as we have seen in the important work being carried out by the international criminal tribunals. But there remains much to be done, particularly to improve prevention and to combat impunity.

-- Kofi Annan
October 28, 2002