Mr. Olufemi Elias
Re : UNHCR Cessation Clause and the ICTR
Dear Registrar Elias,
I am writing to you on behalf of the Rwandan Political Prisoners Support Network (RPPSN) concerning the problems caused by the termination of refugee protection for Rwandans with the implementation of the UNHCR Cessation Clause from 31 December 2017. This will put at risk former Defence witnesses at the ICTR and former Defense employees now living as refugees in different African countries. We understand the implementation of the Cessation Clause will result in forced repatriation to Rwanda.
Many Rwandan refugees living in Africa testified for the Defence after being assured that there was no danger for them from the Rwandan Government. Some testified under pseudonyms and others publicly based on assurance that they were safe as. Their confidence in this system has been severely undermined.
We know that the Rwandan dictatorship is well aware of the names of all witnesses. Former Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte stated publicly that Rwanda had infiltrated the Tribunal. The fact of having testified in defense provided reasons for the Rwandan Government to persecute such witnesses if returned by force to Rwanda.
We are requesting the intervention of the Tribunal to defend these vulnerable witnesses. Under the Policy for the Provision of Support and Protection Services to Victims and Witnesses at article 6, it is stated “WISP shall provide witness support and protection services, in application of principles common to both branches prior to, during and after testimony.” (Our underlining) This protection by the Tribunal remains in force at the moment and you are well aware that the Chambers place great emphasis on the strict application of such measures.
There is a further problem for former Defence staff members who reside in Africa as refugees. These former defence employees will be in serious danger if forced to return to Rwanda at the end of 2017.
As an initial step, we call upon the Tribunal to undertake the following:
- Contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to ask that all former employees and defence witnesses by exempted from the Cessation Clause.
- Contact all former defence witnesses to offer concrete support to obtain individual refugee status and other support.
- Contact and visit all relevant African Governments to offer the support of the Residual Mechanism to former witnesses.
- Contact all defense counsel to ask for their collaboration in this undertaking.
- Contact all relevant African Governments to offer the support of the Residual Mechanism for former employees in Defence in order to grant them refugee status on an individual basis.
In the meantime, we offer our collaboration in this important undertaking.
The RPPSN is an international organisation made up of attorneys, journalists, investigators and interested persons based in Canada, the USA, Belgium, and Holland as well as in different African countries.
John Philpot, President
cc. President Theodor Meron
Mme Sera Attika, Assistant Chief of Registry, Arusha Division