5 July 2012

Rwanda: Bagosora, Three Others to Serve Sentences in Mali

Photo: United Nations
Rwandan children, refugees of the 1994 genocide.

THE man widely regarded as the architect of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Théoneste Bagosora, has been sent to Mali to serve his sentence, court sources said yesterday.

He was transferred to the conflict ridden country together with three other high profile convicts, namely; Yusuf Munyakazi, who was a businessman and commercial farmer in the former Cyangugu préfecture, Tharcise Renzaho, former Prefect of Kigali City, and Dominique Ntawukulilyayo, former Sub-Prefect of Gisagara, Butare.

Bagosora, a former director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, was given 35 years last December, following his appeal against a life sentence handed to him by the ICTR lower chamber.

Ruled to have been de facto army chief in the first days of the Genocide, Bagosora was initially sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2008 on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Earlier, before the transfer of the convicts, Rwanda bid to host them but the final decision solely remained in the hands of the Tribunal's president.

So far, Mali and Benin have been the preferred destination of the ICTR convicts; however, the UN tribunal's soft spot for Bamako has raised concerns over the recent military coup and the Tuareg rebellion that has split the West African nation into two.

There is concern the deteriorating security situation in Mali might provide an opportunity for the convicts to escape, even as ICTR officials insist the Koulikoro prison, situated just outside Bamako, is secure.

Despite the concerns, Rwanda seems not to be bothered by the Tribunal's decision.

According to the Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, Rwanda is not responsible for what is happening in Mali and so is to the security of the prisoners.

"We signed a convention with the ICTR to have convicts transferred to Rwanda but so far not a single one has been brought here. If these convicts are sent here, we would strictly keep in the provisions of the laws and agreements," said Karugarama.

Rwanda has expressed readiness to take in the convicts and the country currently hosts Sierra Leonean war crimes convict by the UN special court.

According to Karugarama, although Rwanda is able to host international prisoners, the country is not desperate to have the convicts transferred to Rwanda.

"We are not dying or pushing to have these prisoners brought here but I believe it is good for the prisoners to serve their sentences in Rwanda since they would be visited by members of their families and also have a true moment of reflection and reconciliation with their conscience," he said.

The transfer of the four convicts to Mali brings to 20 the number of individuals who have served or are serving their sentences in that country.

All ICTR detainees who have completed their appeals procedure must be transferred to another country, under the terms of an agreement between the UN and Tanzania, which hosts the Tribunal.

Before executing the Mali transfer, the Tribunal had also sent Aloys Ntabakuze, Ildephonse Hategekimana, Gaspard Kanyarukiga and Callixte Kalimanzira to Benin to serve their sentences there.

Earlier in the year, on March 20, three other convicts, Simeon Nchamihigo, Ephrem Setako and Simon Bikindi were transferred to serve their sentences in Benin.

Samuel Imanishimwe who was serving his 12 year sentence in Mali, was recently released upon completion of his sentence. Juvénal Rugambarara, serving his 11 year sentence in Benin, was on February 8, 2012 released upon serving three-fourths of his sentence. The two are yet to find countries that would take them in.

Jean Bosco Barayagwiza and Georges Rutuganda, who where serving a 32 year sentence and life sentence, respectively, died on 25 April 2010 and 11 October 2010 respectively in Benin.

Fourteen convicts are currently serving their sentences in Benin.

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