The New Times (Kigali)

10 December 2012

Rwanda Complains to UN Over Convicts' Lavish Life

Following reports unveiling the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by Genocide convicts incarcerated in Mali, Rwanda's Permanent Representative at the UN presented a formal complaint to the Security Council.

The convicts, who are serving varying sentences handed to them by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), are mainly key architects of the Genocide against the Tutsi which claimed over a million people.

Addressing the UN Security Council on the 'Report of The ICTR', Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana said; "Rwanda, while deeply concerned by the political, security and humanitarian situation in Mali, is also alarmed by information according to which Genocide convicts who were transferred to Mali to serve their sentences are living a lavish life and running businesses."

Recently The New Times reported that the convicts, including the former Prime Minister of the genocidal regime, Jean Kambanda, run businesses and are also believed to have special helpers who are not part of the prison arrangement working for them in their cells.

"The convicts are allowed to move out of their cells unguarded to visit their friends and families. We call upon International Residual Mechanism of the Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) to investigate this serious matter and, if confirmed, to take appropriate measures to end this situation, including reviewing the sentence enforcement agreement with Mali," said Gasana, who was recently promoted to cabinet minister ahead of Rwanda's assumption of its position on the UN Security Council.

The convicts are in Koulikoro Prison, located just outside Bamako.

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.

Similarly, in his opinion, an independent Rwandan legal practitioner, Andre Martin Karongozi, who is conversant with the operations of the ICTR and the state of the tribunal's prisoners, said that it would not be a surprise if prisoners were indeed running business.

"We have to first note that the lawyers who defend these people are paid exorbitantly, also, previously, there were cases where an ICTR prisoner could set conditions for the defence lawyer to share the lawyers' payments and in this way they could acquire money, so it would not be a surprise to me if they are running business," said Karongozi.

He hastened to add that some prisoners at the ICTR could even pay investigators just to leak information to them.

"It is also important to consider that they are held in a poor, corrupt and insecure country. They would definitely take advantage of that," said Karongozi.

MICT has neither denied nor confirmed the reports.

"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," an email sent last week by MICT Registrar, John Hocking to The New Times reads in part.

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.

Others serving different sentences include Sylvestre Gacumbitsi and Samuel Imanishimwe (30 and 27 years), while Paul Bisengimana, Obed Ruzindana and Laurent Semanza were sentenced to 25 years each.

Omar Serushago is serving 15 years.

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