People acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and those who have served their sentences, have nothing to fear in Rwandan and will not be tried again, Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama has said. He made the declaration last week during a visit of ICTR registrar Christopher Bongani Majora.
During their discussions, the two talked about issues regarding ICTR's relationship with Rwanda, especially in the wake of the recent acquittals by the appeals chamber of Justin Mugenzi, Minister of Trade during the 1994 Genocide, and Prosper Mugiraneza, Public Service Minister, considered by Rwanda as being among the organizers of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis.
The tribunal wound up its trials in July 2012, and any pending appeals were transferred to a residual mechanism mandated by the UN Security Council, which is also expected to close by the end of 2014. Among those tried, 14 accused have been acquitted and 13 have served their sentence, and of those 10 are still stuck in Arusha trying to find a host country.
"They are stuck at the Tribunal but we hope that ultimately we will find a country ready to receive and host them," Bongani Majora said.
As far as the Justice Minister is concerned, they are welcome in Rwanda. "After all, Rwanda is their homeland; they can come here and join their families instead of spreading rumors that they won't be accepted," Karugarama stressed. "Many others who were tried by local courts and Gacaca are living with others and joined the cause of developing the country, so those from the ICTR can also come back and be part of the reconciliation process."
He added that he doesn't see any reason for them to stay in Arusha, and considering that many foreign countries reject their applications, they could as well come back to their motherland which is ready to receive them.
"They may have been bad guys but still they are our bad guys," Karugarama quipped, referring to the Rwandan saying 'Ibyaye ikiboze irakirigata' (When one gives birth to a nasty being, he still has to feed it). "I am not saying they are nasty. They still have their citizenship to this country."
The Minister also made it clear that those acquitted won't be tried again for the same fact by local courts. "When the ICTR tries someone, no other court is competent to revoke that judgment. Whether fair or controversial, one has to learn to live with it. They won't be tried again," he said. "The recent acquittals are a disastrous decision, but it has to be accepted."
That is also the position of prosecutor general Marting Ngoga, who recently confirmed that those acquitted by the ICTR cannot be tried again, unless on other charges than those they faced at the Arusha tribunal.
"If there was a way to do something beyond just complaining, we'd have done something. This is happening at the time when we have very little options remaining," Ngoga said. "We are not going to have these people and try them again; we have to respect these rulings because we have no options, but we don't like it."