4 July 2008

Rwanda: ICTR Authorises Conjugal Rights for Detainees

Arusha — The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has changed its policy and has now allowed conjugal rights for detained and convicted persons in a move to harmonise rules with its sister tribunal in ex-Yogoslavia (ICTY) and widen the scope of basic human rights.

ICTY detainees have been enjoying the facility since it was established in 1993 to try people responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia

"Since May new policy authorizing conjugal visits has been adopted by the Registry as part of harmonization of the policy matters between ICTR and the ICTY," according to Roland Amoussouga, spokesman of the UN Court. There are a total of 56 detainees at the Special UN Detention Facility, including 18 convicted persons awaiting host countries.

The move has been under consideration since the Chamber's decision to deny convicted Hassan Ngeze, ex-editor of Kangura newspaper, to a right to get married at the ICTR premises (and thereafter conjugal visits) in late 2005.

Mr Amoussouga said the conjugal visits are exercised within set out regulations under the rules of detention and any breach of the norms would mean automatic denial of any such future visits.

"The detained persons are presumed innocent and convicted persons must only be deprived of the right to move freely," he stated.

The issue has not been universally settled, he said, adding that the UN Court had a pioneering role in spreading some human right advancements in terms of right of the defence. The UN Court was established in November 1994 by the Security Council to try key architects of the April-July slaughter, which claimed lives of about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

According to ICTR sources, the visitor, among others, may be required to undergo a background check, and the inmate must also be free of any sexually transmitted diseases. As a matter of procedure, both visitor and inmate are searched before and after the visit, to ensure that the visitor has not attempted to smuggle any items in or out of the facility.

The conjugal meetings at the detention facility, on the outskirts of Arusha town, are allowed for maximum of three hours, and must not disrupt or distract the neighbourhood.

No detainee, the source said, may be allowed to have more than one conjugal meeting within a period of two successive months; except in case of a detainee whose spouse is resident in a distant country, outside Tanzania,

Also in such a case, there will be one conjugal visit in the first week and second meeting during last week of the family visit.

The conjugal visits are still an evolving global issue, with some countries maintaining that inmates must not have the privilege of having sexual pleasure, even if that's with a legal spouse while serving the sentence as part of punishment. However, on the other side, human rights' activists consider that even if imprisoned, the right to family bond must not be denied.

Conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia has allowed conjugal visits for years now but countries like England, Scotland and Ireland do not allow conjugal visits . However, home visits, with a greater emphasis on building other links with the outside world to which the prisoner will be returned are allowed.

In Brazil, male prisoners are eligible to be granted conjugal visits for both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, while women's conjugal visits are tightly regulated, if granted at all. Since July 2007, the prison system in Mexico City has begun to allow gay prisoners to have conjugal visits from their partners, on the basis of a 2003 law which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

France and Canada allow prisoners who have earned the right to a conjugal visit to stay in decorated home-like apartments during extended visits.

The Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin fathered a child while in prison.

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