The New Times (Kigali)

6 January 2014

Rwanda: Interview - Empower African Court As Alternative to ICC - Rugege

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These are allegations from some international organisations; such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the like.And given their general attitude towards Rwanda, I am not surprised that they look at our Judiciary in that light. I am satisfied that our Judiciary is independent and and we have not had any threat with regard to that independence.This is also reaffirmed by other courts, some of them international in nature, which are now sending Genocide fugitives to stand trial in Rwanda.

You know that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) had for long refused to send suspects for trial in Rwanda but, since 2011, they decided that our Judiciary is independent and can handle these cases.

The European Court of Human and People's Rights has also ruled that Rwandan courts are independent and can offer a fair trial. Other courts in The Netherlands, Canada and elsewhere have also adjudged the judiciary here to offer fair trial.

Another example is the Global Competitiveness Report, by a well-respected international rating agency; that rates Rwanda very highly in terms of independence of the Judiciary. Last year Rwanda was ranked number 25 globally well ahead of countries with more mature legal systems.

So we cannot dwell on the attacks of Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch because they are not founded on any evidence.

There are several Genocide suspects detained in different countries around the world. Some of these countries have refused to extradite suspects for trial in Rwanda, preferring to try them, what is your take on that?

I do not have any problem with suspects being tried in host countries. My personal view is that these fugitives should face justice, where they are tried does not really matter. I would, of course, prefer that they are tried here where they committed the crimes because then justice will not only be done but also seen to be done.

The relatives of those who were killed would be able to follow the proceedings. I think part of the criticism about international prosecution of these suspects is that it is done remotedly from people who really have a stake in the process, which to me leaves justice half-served.

For example, for those suspects who are in the UK, I cannot see why they do not try them if they cannot send them to Rwanda. We have confidence in their legal system but they are reluctant to prosecute these suspects. There is an international obligation on cases concerning genocide where, in the event that a country cannot try the suspect, it can transfer the suspect to a jurisdiction that can try them.

It is more than a year since Gacaca courts closed, have there been any special challenges that the Judiciary faced as a result of the closure of Gacaca?

The law that closed the Gacaca courts says that any request for review of cases (that were tried by Gacaca) can be done in ordinary courts which has increased the burden for courts. We have not felt the burden that much but that is only because there is still a process of transferring files from Gacaca Jurisdiction to the ordinary courts but quite a number of people have filed for review of their cases that were decided by the Gacaca courts.

Many of them may not have the merit but they will still increase the burden on the judicial system by bringing more cases. We can only hope that they will not be too many to paralyse the work of the primary courts.

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