March 9, 1999
LAWYERS COMMITTEE URGES SURRENDER OF RWANDAN TO WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL
New York, March 9, 1999 The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights today filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit urging the surrender of Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, a Rwandan indicted for genocide, to the Rwanda Tribunal (ICTR). The Ntakirutimana case is being closely watched both in the U.S. and abroad for the precedent it will set for future cooperation with the UN ad hoc criminal tribunals.
"The outcome of the Ntakirutimana case is important because it will signal and be seen as tangible proof of U.S. support for the rule of law," said Michael Posner, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee. "International justice will be dealt a serious blow if Ntakirutimana does not stand trial for genocide due to a U.S. failure to surrender him. U.S. efforts to encourage other nations to cooperate with the ad hoc criminal tribunals will lose credibility."
Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, who is a Hutu and was the chief Pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Rwanda was taken into custody in Laredo, Texas in 1996. Two ICTR indictments charge him with genocide and crimes against humanity in connection with the killings of thousands of Tutsis in Mugonero and Bisesero, Rwanda, in the spring of 1994. He has been fighting surrender in the U.S. court system ever since arrest claiming, among other things, that the ICTR was improperly created and that his surrender to the Tribunal cannot be based on a federal statute alone.
"It is wrong to claim that a federal statute passed by both Houses of Congress does not provide a constitutionally sufficient basis for the surrender of an international fugitive," Posner said. "Controlling precedent points firmly to the opposite conclusion."
The Lawyers Committees brief filed today focuses primarily on the constitutional issues raised in Ntakirutimanas appeal. This is the third Lawyers Committee brief, filed by Debevoise & Plimpton, since the proceedings began. Previous briefs, filed in 1997 and 1998, dealt with other aspects of the case, such as the creation and legitimacy of the ICTR. The oral argument is expected to take place in the spring.
Copies of the brief are available upon request.