Published in Information (Denmark)

6nd April 2004

Posted at



Did Annan shut down terror investigation?




It appears that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was himself implicated when a UN chief prosecutor shut down an investigation of the terrorist attack that ten years ago to the day sparked the Rwanda genocide. Annan spokesman rejects claims

By Bjørn Willum




‘Somebody’ twisted the arm of then UN Chief Prosecutor of the UN tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia Louise Arbour in early 1997 and made her close down a top-secret investigation of the murder of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana.
And that ‘somebody’ could very well have been UN Secretary General Kofi Annan himself.
This is what former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda investigator Michael Hourigan believes. “I cannot imagine that she made that decision on her own,” Hourigan told Information.
In deepest secrecy, Hourigan supervised a tribunal investigation aiming to identify the perpetrators that shot president Habyarimana’s jet out of the sky late on April 6, 1994. An event that almost immediately set in motion the genocide of nearly one million people in the small Central African country.
For one year, Hourigan said, “she followed the investigation [and] I briefed her”. But when his team finally made a breakthrough, Ms Arbour closed down the case.
“Why encourage a group of professional investigators, spend a year, commit resources and then get the information – and then shut it down?”
The answer is probably that the case became politically explosive because the investigation, unexpectedly, pointed an accusing finger at the current Rwandan regime. A US ally.

And there are indications that Mr Annan was involved in the suspension of the investigation. According to Hourigan, the then deputy chief of the UN Security and Safety Services, Micheal Hall, a few days after Hourigan in a confidential encrypted phone conversion had briefed Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour about the investigation breakthrough, turned up to see Hourigan in Kigali. Mr Hall made it clear to Hourigan that the UN secretary general had personally instructed him to see to it that Hourigan got out of Rwanda fast. Carrying a secret memorandum about the investigation, Hourigan was escorted by Hall to the airport and put on a UN flight.

Hourigan then flew to the Hague in the Netherlands where Arbour had her office. In Arbour’s office, Hourigan handed over the memorandum. But although Arbour, according to Hourigan, until then had backed the investigation for a year, she suddenly claimed during the meeting, which took place around the end of February and beginning of March 1997, that the downing of the presidential jet was not within the jurisdiction of the Rwanda tribunal. Despite the fact that terrorism is clearly listed as one of the offences the tribunal is mandated to prosecute. “She had taken advice, she said,” according to Hourigan.

But not from Annan, Farhan Haq, a spokesman of the secretary general, said. “The prosecutor of the tribunal is independent,” Mr Haq told Information. “Neither the secretary general nor anyone in his office encouraged Judge Arbour not to investigate the April 6 air crash.”

Both Micheal Hall and the spokesman of Arbour, who is today a Canadian Supreme Court judge and whom Annan has appointed UN commissioner for human rights as of July this year, responded to Information with the phrase “no comments”.







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