ICTR refers last detainee to Rwanda
The Referral Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), on Thursday, referred the only suspect awaiting trial to Rwanda.
The court was created to try key architects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
If both the referral and appeals chambers billed Rwanda as a suitable destination of the suspects, chances are very high that all subsequent cases referred by the (ICTR) prosecutor will be granted
Bernard Munyagishari was president of the Interahamwe militia in the former Gisenyi Prefecture, now in the Western Province. He was arrested last year in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Munyagishari, according to the indictment, stands accused of conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, murder and rape as crimes against humanity. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
“Rwanda has made material changes in its laws and has indicated its capacity and willingness to prosecute cases referred by this Tribunal,” reads part of the ruling by a bench led by Lee Gacuiga Muthoga.
His lawyers have claimed he is a Congolese national in a desperate attempt to block his transfer to Rwanda.
Munyagishari is the fifth person whose case has been referred to Rwanda by the Tanzania-based tribunal as part of its completion strategy. But he will be second the to be brought to Kigali after Jean Bosco Uwinkindi. Others are still on the run.
In April, Uwinkindi, a former Pentecostal pastor in Kayenzi, Bugesera, became the first suspect to be transferred from Arusha to Kigali, where he’s awaiting trial.
The other three suspects; Fulgence Kayishema, Charles Sikubwabo and Ladislas Ntaganzwa are still at large, but the ICTR prosecutor has handed his Rwandan counterpart their indictments.
In the Munyagishari transfer ruling, the chamber directed the Kigali Bar Association to submit written guarantees that the accused, should he request so, will be assigned a lawyer with previous international experience.
The president of Kigali Bar Association, Athanase Rutabingwa, said they were ready to offer the necessary legal support.
“There is no reason as to why the guarantees should not be made; we already made those guarantees when we appeared as Amicus Curiae...we have lawyers with the requisite experience,” he told The New Times.
He gave the example of Gatera Gashabana who has been assigned to facilitate Uwinkindi in his proceedings.
Rutabingwa said they have lawyers accredited by the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), and those who have worked on or are still part of defence teams at the ICTR.
However, Munyagishari can appeal the decision to the Appeals Chamber.
Rwanda’s Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, welcome the ruling describing it as a “positive development.”
“A lot of energy has been put in securing the transfer of these cases, including different appearances that we made at the tribunal to argue our case; such decisions mean that our efforts have paid off,” Ngoga told a news conference in Kigali yesterday.
Citing the principle of precedence, legal experts say it is almost impossible for the decision to be rescinded.
“It is very rare for the same tribunal to offer two contradicting verdicts... if both the referral and appeals chambers billed Rwanda as a suitable destination of the suspects, chances are very high that all subsequent cases referred by the (ICTR) prosecutor will be granted,” said Rutabingwa.
When Kigali’s initial attempts to secure these transfers first hit a snag, the government undertook a series of judicial reforms, designed to meet minimum conditions for the transfer of suspects from the tribunal and other jurisdictions.
As a result, the ‘Transfer Law’ was enacted, with guarantees for special treatment of such transferees once in the country.
It has been government’s long held position that the tribunal hands over to Rwanda all suspects that will remain untried when the court closes business. Kigali also wants all the ICTR convicts brought to Rwanda to complete their sentences.
But the tribunal has hitherto preferred other destinations for convicted inmates, including Mali and Benin.
Instituted by the UN Security Council in 1995, the tribunal has so far completed 72 cases of which 17 are awaiting appeal while 10 have been acquitted.
Contact email: felly.kimenyi[at]newtimes.co.rw