The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Country Scoffs At Amnesty Claims

Kigali — Rwanda has strongly denounced yesterday's statement by Amnesty International (AI) which urged governments worldwide not to transfer Genocide fugitives to Rwanda for trial.

The rights' organisation also called on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to halt its plans to transfer to Rwanda Genocide suspects it will not have prosecuted by the time its mandate runs out next year.

'Despite improvements in the Rwandan justice system serious concerns remain about its ability to investigate and prosecute crimes related to the 1994 Genocide fairly and impartially, in accordance with international standards of justice,' AI claimed in the statement.

However, the government scoffed at Amnesty's suggestions, saying the country was more experienced in handling Genocide cases than anybody else.

Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga said yesterday the rights watchdog used illegal procedure to air out its concerns.

"Amnesty should have forwarded an application to courts instead of issuing a press release; the methodology is very clear," Ngoga said.

He added that AI's arguments are aimed at upholding the culture of impunity, which was partly responsible for the 1994 Genocide that claimed at least a million people.

Ngoga who addressed a press conference at his office in Kimihurura said Kigali and its partners would go ahead to push for the arrests and extradition of Genocide suspects.

He accused AI of agitating for impunity.

He said he strongly believed that ICTR and other countries cannot fail to extradite the suspects because of the 'unfounded' claims.

"If there is any country that may attempt to go by their (Amnesty's) opinion, then we would miss out very very few cases or may be none; every country knows the legal procedure of extradition, a mere press release can totally do nothing in changing legal procedures," he said.

In its release, the London-based rights group said that there were still serious concerns about Rwanda's ability to investigate and prosecute crimes relating to the 1994 atrocities both fairly and impartially.

"There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the rights of both the accused and the victims will be fully respected and protected by these courts," Erwin van der Borght, Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme, said in the statement.

The release also states in part that 'various governments where suspects reside should immediately start proceedings in their own courts applying universal jurisdiction laws to investigate and, where there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecute the horrific crimes committed during the Genocide on behalf of both the Rwandan people and the international community.'

Borght said that countries without universal jurisdiction laws allowing for prosecutions should enact them immediately.

Amnesty said that ICTR should not transfer any of its cases to Rwanda until the Rwandan government can demonstrate that it can and will conduct trials fairly and impartially and that all victims and witnesses will be protected.

"Until we are satisfied that all the criteria necessary for fair and impartial trials are met, we urge the ICTR and national governments to refuse to transfer any cases to Rwanda," Borght said.

However, the ICT Prosecutor Bubacar Jallow has already approved Rwanda's readiness to handle ICTR cases.

Last month, Jallow was last in the country and visited a new detention centre in Gitarama (in Southern Province) where ICTR transferees will be detained from.

He also visited a transit centre at Kigali Central Prison for the ICTR suspects.

Over the years, Rwanda has built its necessary human capacity to handle Genocide cases, resulting in thousands of cases being completed in a short period.

Since being set up in 1994, ICTR has completed 34 trials, convicted 28 people and acquitted five.

The court has 29 trials under way with six pending and it has transferred one case to the Hague, Netherlands.

Several countries are in the process of extraditing Genocide suspects to Rwanda.

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