GENOCIDE convicts who were sentenced by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and transferred to Mali to serve their sentences are living a lavish life and running businesses in Mali, The New Times has learnt.
The 14 convicts, including the former Prime Minister of the genocidal regime, Jean Kambanda, run businesses in Mali's capital Bamako and are also believed to have special helpers who are not part of the prison arrangement working for them in their cells.
The New Times also learnt that the convicts move out of their cells unguarded to visit their friends and families living in Mali at their convenient time. The convicts are in Koulikoro Prison, located just outside Bamako.
The spokesperson of the Rwandan Prosecution, Alain Mukuralinda, confirmed that they have received similar reports, adding that Rwanda is aware of the disturbing revelations.
"We have information from highly credible sources that indeed these prisoners are living such a lavish life," said Mukuralinda.
Asked if Rwanda has informed the Mechanism of the International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) that is primarily charged with the conditions of the prisoners, Mukuralinda said that Rwanda is still verifying the claims and would inform the MICT after gathering all the evidence.
Established by the UN, the MICT is an organ mandated to carry out essential functions and to maintain the legacy of the Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and for the former Yugoslavia.
"It is not a surprise that this is happening because they are detained in an insecure country that may care less about the situation of prisoners. Also the ICTR's choice of Mali as a place for such high level prisoners to serve their sentence was questionable in the first place," said Mukuralinda.
He however hastened to add that; "The enforcers of the sentence handed to these prisoners are the ones to blame."
Responding to the allegations, in an email sent to The New Times, yesterday, MICT Registrar, John Hocking, could neither deny nor confirm the reports.
Hocking's office is in charge of enforcing the sentence handed to the prisoners.
"I am not in a position to provide any further detail on security matters. Mali has been a State of enforcement for ICTR sentences since 2001. The conditions of detention of the ICTR convicts in Mali have been regularly inspected by a highly reputable international monitoring body," reads the email.
He explained that on July 1, the MICT inherited from the ICTR the supervision of enforcement of sentences pronounced by the tribunal.
The email also adds that the MICT is committed to undertaking this mandate in accordance with its rules and the applicable international standards.
"It has already conducted missions to the Enforcement States and engaged the services of an independent international expert on penitentiary matters to provide recommendations for any improvements which may be desirable or necessary to any existing practices," he said.
However, in a counter reaction, Mukuralinda said that Hocking should have admitted or rejected the claims because "a yes or a no wouldn't be a security breach."
"We are expecting top leaders of the MICT in Kigali sometime later this month and this is one of the issues we will raise to them," said Mukuralinda.
Among the prisoners serving their sentence, eight of them are serving a life sentence and these are; Jean Kambanda, Jean Paul Akayesu, Mikaeli Muhimana, Alfred Musema, Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda.
Sylvestre Gacumbitsi and Samuel Imanishimwe are serving 30 years and 27 years sentence, while Paul Bisengimana, Obed Ruzindana and Laurent Semanza were sentenced to 25 years each.
Omar Serushago is serving 15 years.
The New Times is yet to know details on the convicts' businesses and names of their salaried employees.
When The New Times contacted the ICTR Spokesperson Roland Amoussouga he confirmed that the enforcement of the prison sentence is currently under the office of the MICT Registrar John Hoking and that he would not comment on something that is not in his mandate.
In the past the ICTR had been criticised over the controversial decision it took in determining where the 15 key convicts would serve their prison sentences without consulting Rwanda.