The New Times (Kigali)

19 March 2009

Sierra Leone: War Crime Convicts to Serve Sentences in Rwanda

Nyarugenge — Rwanda and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), a UN approved tribunal for masterminds of the crimes committed during the latter's past civil war Wednesday signed an agreement that will see some of the convicts completing their sentences in Rwanda.

This came shortly after a visiting SCSL team concluded touring and inspecting country's detention facilities and, expressed their solid appreciation for the "quality of the facilities," an approval duly welcomed by government.

"I want to express our positive sentiments towards this cooperation and tell you that this is in our view, part of our constant search for cooperation on the delivery of international justice," Foreign Minister Rosemary Museminali assured the delegation during the ceremony at her ministry.

"Upon signing this agreement, we will commit to do our part, she noted.

SCSL Registrar Herman Von Hebel underlined that his team had visited the detention facilities "which have been dedicated for the purpose of enforcing sentences of those people" convicted by international tribunals such as SCSL and, was impressed after touring the state-of-the-art prison in Mpanga, in Southern Province.

"I was very much impressed by the quality of the facilities. They meet international standards, or better put, they exceed international standards," he emphasized, underscoring his observations were based on "further consultations" during his stay.

Von Hebel added that he was convinced that the current "maximum of eight" SCSL convicted persons will receive "an enforcement which meets international standards."

Museminali reiterated that Rwanda has worked vigorously to ensure the delivery of justice but also sought the support of international bodies and other countries.

"We feel that what we are doing here today reinforces that endeavour. It also emphasizes our commitment - giving our own contribution to international justice," she said.

The signing was also witnessed by Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama, who pointed out that the agreement signifies Rwanda's modest contribution to cooperation in international justice.

He noted that the convicts have a place where they can serve their sentences while all their rights are respected in accordance with international standards.

He stressed that Rwanda's current contribution is supported by the desire, "in the context of Rwanda's history" for the whole world to cooperate in enforcement of sentences against crimes against humanity and, that cooperation in all other aspects of justice to ensure that "people are brought to book."

The UN approved the SCSL in 2002 and, unlike the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), it is based in Sierra Leone where the atrocities were committed.

It is believed that because SCSL combines both international and domestic law, it fronts a new generation of international tribunals which experts say will deliver justice "faster and at a lower cost" than its equivalents for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

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