The trial of Genocide suspect Jean Bosco Uwinkindi will go on as planed despite his refusal to respond to questions from prosecution, Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said on Thursday.
Commenting on the suspect's refusal to respond on four occasions, Ngoga told The New Times that was not "something that is subject to any serious discussion".
The law requires suspects to appear before prosecutors to be informed of the charges and provide a statement to the effect.
"That's not a problem. There are so many options before the defendant, since one can decide to speak or not to, and in each option, there is a reason for that".
Article 13 of the law of March 2007, about the cases transferred to Rwanda from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and other jurisdictions, state that the accused shall have the right to remain silent and not to be compelled to incriminate themselves.
Uwinkindi, 61, was indicted in 2001 by the Arusha-based UN tribunal and charged with three counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity over his involvement in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Uwinkind was arrested in Uganda on June 30, 2010 and transferred to the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania, two days later.
On April 19, 2012, he became the first genocide and war crimes suspect to be transferred to Rwanda from the ICTR, under Rule 11 Bis of the Tribunal's Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which governs the transfer of cases to national jurisdictions.
"There is a legal process to accommodate that. So, first of all, it's not yet time for the next hearing. Maybe, this man, in the next appointments, may be able to cooperate and talk to prosecutors. Or he may not be able to speak at all. There is no legal vacuum of how to handle that," Ngoga said.
In his initial court appearance, Uwinkindi asked for four months (which were granted) to prepare his case, and is scheduled to make his second court appearance on August 27.
The suspect was a pastor of the Pentecostal Church in Kanzenze in the former Kigali-Rural préfecture during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. He is accused of ordering militia to kill Tutsi refugees who had sought refuge in his church.
Prosecution says that 2,000 corpses were subsequently discovered near his church. He denies all the charges.
His trial will be monitored by two officials designated by the ICTR registrar, pending third party monitors. The ICTR monitors are expected to work on interim basis, as the UN court continues negotiations with the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights to monitor the process on a long-term basis.
Before transfer of cases to Rwanda, the ICTR wanted guarantees from Kigali on the protection of defence witnesses. The Rwandan judiciary, which was already undergoing a series of reforms at the time, set alternative mechanisms to facilitate witnesses.
The tribunal had raised concerns that some of the defence witnesses might not enjoy prosecution immunity under a special law since they themselves might be Genocide suspects.
As a result, the government set up alternative platforms such as a video-link facility in the High Court chambers to enable witnesses testify from wherever they may be without necessarily travelling to Kigali.