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Rwanda genocide court says mandate extended to 2009

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - A U.N. court trying the masterminds of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide said on Tuesday that its mandate had been extended by a year until 2009.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) building with a background of Mount Meru in Arusha is seen in this undated handout picture released on February 27, 2008. REUTERS/ICTR-Handout

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was supposed to complete all its cases by the end of this year, and finish work on all appeals by the end of 2010. Critics including the Rwandan government have accused it of inefficiency.

On Tuesday, an ICTR spokesman said the U.N. Security Council had extended the mandate of the Tanzania-based court for a year.

“The judges’ mandate was extended as well as the mandate of the tribunal,” Timothy Gallimore said in an email to Reuters. “The ICTR must now finish all first instance trials by December 31, 2009 and all appeals by December 31, 2010.”

The mandate was extended earlier this month.

The court was established in 1994 after ethnic Hutu militias slaughtered some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days of carnage in the tiny central African nation.

To date it has given judgments in 32 cases, including five acquittals, and has also issued rulings in another two cases that have pending appeals.

Thirteen top fugitives remain at large including Felicien Kabuga, a rich Hutu businessman accused of financing the militias, and Augustin Bizimana, a former defence minister.

The Rwandan government had opposed the extension of the court’s mandate, saying it has delivered little value-for-money and arguing that all outstanding cases be transferred to Kigali.

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In Nairobi on Tuesday, Kabuga’s wife urged Kenya’s High Court to overturn an order freezing the couple’s local assets.

The authorities there froze Kabuga’s Kenyan assets in May, accusing him of using his wealth to avoid capture, help other fugitives and “substantially interfere” with ICTR witnesses.

The United States has put a $5 million bounty on his head.

In an affidavit handed to the High Court by her lawyer, wife Josephine Mukazitoni, based in Belgium, argued that the Kenyan government had no legal right to act on behalf of the ICTR.

Kenyan officials say Kabuga and his wife are owners, shareholders and directors in several companies registered in Kenya and their daughter was transferring the proceeds to a Belgian bank account.

In the court papers, Mukazitoni argued that all the couple’s properties had been acquired legitimately and that she would suffer serious financial distress if the order stood.

“I depend on the proceeds of rent for my livelihood in Belgium, since I am currently unemployed and at the age of 66 practically unemployable in my country of residence,” she said.

Kenya’s director of public prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, said he would seek an order for Mukazitoni to appear as a witness and face cross-examination.

ICTR prosecutors say Kabuga has visited Kenya frequently in recent years. But Kenya’s government has repeatedly denied allegations that it had been remiss in failing to arrest him.

A Kenyan businessman who tried to lure Kabuga to his home in 2003 so that police could catch him was later found murdered.

(Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo and Wangui Kanina in Nairobi; Writing by Daniel Wallis)

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