Lawyers acquaint themselves with international law

The Minister of Justice has called upon lawyers to better understand the international law as Rwanda prepares to receive key Genocide suspects from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Prominent city lawyer, Francois Rwangampuhwe, chatting with Karugarama at Hotel Novotel yesterday (Photo/J. Mbanda)
Prominent city lawyer, Francois Rwangampuhwe, chatting with Karugarama at Hotel Novotel yesterday (Photo/J. Mbanda)

The Minister of Justice has called upon lawyers to better understand the international law as Rwanda prepares to receive key Genocide suspects from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Tharcisse Karugarama was yesterday opening a one-week workshop by members of Kigali Bar Association, which seeks to enlighten the learned fraternity on the International Law.

He said: “This training has come at a right time when we prepare to receive cases from the ICTR…you should take advantage of it so that you can help to boost our young judiciary.”

The ICTR is facilitating the workshop underway at Hotel Novotel Umubano.
Recently the Chief Prosecutor of the Tanzania-based UN tribunal filed a motion to a court’s chamber of judges to analyse the possible transfer of three suspects currently in custody of the ICTR detention facility.

The trio is Lt. Ildephonse Hategekimana, Gaspard Kanyarukiga and Yussuf Munyakazi.
Minister Karugarama urged lawyers to be more competitive now that Rwanda is part of the East African Community (EAC).

“You are going to be serving a community as large as 120 million people and you will be joining your compatriots in other member countries; so you must be in position to compete with them,” he said.

He added that the existence of the ICTR will set an international precedence for Genocide trials.

“There is nowhere in the history of International Law that any tribunal had tried Genocide suspects. Thus the fact that the archives of the tribunal would be brought here after the tribunal closes shop, we will have the reference to the international community,” he said. The tribunal is supposed to have wound up its activities by December 2008 on cases in substance and appeals by 2010.

However, Boubakar Jallow told the UN Security Council that he may seek for extension of the mandate if his office secures arrest of either one or some of the six most wanted Genocide fugitives whom they tagged ‘the big fish.’

The six include notorious businessman, Felicien Kabuga, former defence minister Augustin Bizimana and Major Protais Mpiranyi, the former commander of the presidential guard.

Others are former Youth minister Callixte Nsabimana, former minister of planning Augustin Ngirabatware and Ildephonse Nizeyimana, a former military official.

“In the event that these persons are arrested too late for their trials to conclude by the end of 2008, or they remain at large, un-arrested by that date, the Tribunal will need guidance from the Council as to how their cases should be dealt with.

“The solutions may include authority for the ICTR to proceed with such cases beyond the end of 2008,” Jallow told the council in June.

He however maintained that Rwanda remains the main possible destination for the referral of cases after the tribunal closes down.

The tribunal has transferred previously at least 30 case files to the Rwandan prosecution but the implicated suspects are all still at large.

Rwanda’s efforts
To ensure that these suspects are transferred to Rwanda, the government did a number of things including passing a special law waiving death penalty on ICTR suspects and other suspects that could be extradited from other countries to Rwandan jurisdiction.
That special law which was passed in February preceded the general waiver of death penalty from the country’s penal code in July.

Furthermore, a state-of-the-art prison was constructed in Mpanga, Southern province, and plans are in the pipeline to construct a transit facility in Butamwa, Nyarugenge District where the suspects will be detained during the course of their trial.

Established by the UN Security Council in 1995, the ICTR, which has consumed over $1 billion, has made 29 convictions and 5 acquittals.
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