Arusha — During his monthly press conference in Kigali, Rwandan President Paul Kagame declared on Tuesday that his country had the capacity to organize a fair trial for former Chadian President Hissene Habre.
Rwandan Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama had already made the same point, a few days before, in an interview with the French radio RFI (Radio France International).
Habre has been living in exile in Dakar (Senegal) since he was overthrown in 1990. He is charged for crimes against humanity committed in his country while in power (1982-1990).
"Rwandan judges won't have to borrow their ability to handle this kind of cases", Kagame said, speaking in Kinyarwanda. "They have tried many genocide perpetrators, and so has the ICTR in Arusha. The trials went well", he added.
The African Union (AU) has been searching since 2006 a member state to try Habre. Senegal was first on the list but broke off negotiations, last May, after rejecting AU experts' proposals on how to get the trial started.
Chad then proposed to try its former President, but several Human Rights organizations objected on the grounds that Habre would not benefit from a fair trial in his home country which is ruled since 1990 by the man who ousted him, Idriss Deby.
At its last summit meeting in June in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea), the AU decided to reopen the process of finding a country for Habre's trial. Rwanda immediately volunteered while Belgium - long since prepared to try the former Chadian President in the name of "universal competence" - remains most Human Rights organizations' favorite.
Having abolished the death penalty and reformed its judicial system, Kigali is seeking international recognition of its justice system in view of convincing foreign countries to extradite Rwandan genocide suspects to Rwanda.
In June, a Chamber at the ICTR authorized for the first time the transfer of one of its cases to Rwanda. However, pending the decision on his appeal, Pastor Jean Uwinkindi has not yet been transferred.