Government has asked the UN-backed Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) to hold in open court, deliberations pertaining to granting early release to Genocide perpetrators convicted by the court.
Over 10 masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, through unclear procedure, have been granted early release after they were convicted and handed varying sentences by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
All the early releases have occurred through unilateral decisions of the Mechanism’s President, Judge Theodor Meron.
While visiting the Tanzania-based court on Wednesday, Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said that the tribunal’s legacy now hangs in the balance following the spate of unjustified early releases granted to those that were convicted by the court.
He said that the tribunal had achieved a lot but it is the controversial early release of Genocide masterminds and the fact that those released continue to deny the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and propagate genocide ideology that will be its legacy.
“We are alerting the Tribunal and the International Community that our concerns are founded on the power of unilateralism with which previous controversial early releases were procured. The power to early release needs to be fettered and the person responsible for the releases needs to stop it.” Busingye said from Arusha, the court’s seat.
Among the controversial early release granted to ICTR convicts was that of Genocide ideologue, Ferdinand Nahimana, who Meron released early “on good conduct” grounds.
Nahimana, the founder of the virulent Radio Television des Milles Collines (RTLM), has never atoned for his crimes.
The New Times has learned that Judge Meron has recently requested, for the first time, the opinion of the Rwandan government of applications for early release by three genocide convicts: Aloys Simba, Dominique Ntawukulilyayo and Hassan Ngeze, all currently serving their sentences in West African prisons, although the convicts’ early release requests appear to have been submitted several months to two years ago.
While appreciating MICT’s latest efforts to seek Rwanda’s opinion on applications of ICTR’s genocide convicts for early releases, Busingye said that these requests need to be openly discussed.
“We have requested that these applications be heard in open Court and shortly we will petition the Tribunal for a review of previous early releases, now that the Tribunal has remembered to seek Rwanda’s opinion. The Tribunal and the World need to be reminded and updated on the amount of suffering, pain, trauma and slow painful deaths these men were and continue to be responsible for,” he said.
Genocide Survivors in Rwanda have already urged the UN not to renew the MICT contract of American judge Theodor Meron when it comes up for renewal in June
The minister said that there were real concerns that the mechanism was contemplating the release of Theoneste Bagosora, one of the top architects of the Genocide infamous for declaring in 1993 that he was preparing an apocalypse.
Meanwhile, Busingye said that they will continue pushing the United Nations to relocate to Rwanda the archive accumulated by the ICTR in its over two decades of existence, saying that Rwanda was the rightful custodian.
“The elephant in the room, however, is about Rwanda’s right, not claim, to host these archives which constitute an integral part of Rwanda’s history. For some reason, Rwandans continue to be denied the right to own their history,” he said.
He reminded MICT officials that significant quantities of the archives are original documents taken from Rwanda “in circumstances akin to helping oneself to property found at a crime scene.”
The minister said: “This tribunal can demonstrate no evidence whatsoever according it any right to keep hanging onto Rwandan property. This issue will not be going away anytime soon.”
He said that Rwanda will continue to push for the transfer of ICTR archives to Rwanda, arguing “that’s where they belong”.