19 November 2008

Rwanda: UN Court Rejects Genocide Accused's Transfer to Kigali

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has rejected fourth application of the prosecutor to transfer genocide- accused persons to stand for trial in Kigali for alleged roles in the 1994 genocide.

Rejecting the application, Presiding Judge, Erik Mose of Norway, said that the Chamber was not satisfied that genocide-accused Jean Baptiste Gatete, a former Mayor, would receive a fair trial if he was transferred to Rwanda, although Kigali has made notable progress in improving its judicial system.

In the decision released on 17 November, the Chamber said it was concerned that Gatete will not be able to call witnesses residing outside Rwanda to the extend and in a manner which will ensure a fair trial.

"It [Chamber] accepts that the defence will face problems in obtaining witnesses residing in Rwanda because they will be afraid to testify. Third, there is risk that Gatete, if convicted to life imprisonment there, may risk solitary confinement due to unclear legal provisions in Rwanda."

The other applications already rejected on almost similar grounds are of Lieutenant Ildenphonse Hategekimana, former Commander of Ngoma Camp and former businessmen-- Gaspard Kanyarukiga and Yusuf Munyakazi on almost similar grounds.

The Appeals Court of ICTR on 8 October upheld decision of the Lower Court to deny Prosecutor's request to transfer Munyakazi.

Kigali last year abolished the capital punishment, but the first instance judges ruled that Rwanda's penalty structure such as life imprisonment in isolation, does not meet internationally recognized standards.

Observers consider that Appeals Chamber ruling will impact other two similar pending appeals, which are yet to be decided-- former Commander of Ngoma Camp Lieutenant Ildephonse Hategekimana and businessman Gaspard Kanyarukiga.

The transfer motion of Inspector of Judicial Police, Fulgence Kaysihema, is yet to be heard before the first instance court. The latter is still at large.

Headquartered in Arusha, northern Tanzania , ICTR has, to date, delivered 31 convictions and five acquittals.

Nine accused, held in Arusha, are currently awaiting their trials, whereas 13 suspects are still on the run, including Felicien Kabuga, the alleged financier of killings, which according to UN estimates claimed lives of about 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus

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