Government welcomes arrest of former minister

KIGALI - The Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, has welcomed Germany’s decision to arrest former minister of planning Augustin Ngirabatware.
Augustin Ngirabatware
Augustin Ngirabatware

KIGALI - The Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, has welcomed Germany’s decision to arrest former minister of planning Augustin Ngirabatware.

“Every time a fugitive of the (Rwanda) Genocide is arrested, it is an opportunity for all Rwandans in general and survivors of the Genocide in particular to see justice done,” Karugarama said yesterday.

Ngirabwatare, who is among the six key fugitives who have been tagged by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, (ICTR) as the ‘big fish,’ was arrested at the request of the Tanzania-based UN tribunal.

“We are comfortable with him being transferred to the requesting authority which in this case is the ICTR and we shall wait for the trial,” Karugarama said.

Ngirabatware is said to be son-in-law to notorious businessman Felicien Kabuga, who tops the list of wanted key Genocide suspects still at large.

Kabuga, who suspected to have been main financier of the Genocide, is widely believed to be staying in Kenya.

Ngirabatware was arrested with the assistance and collaboration of the Tracking Team in the Office of the Prosecutor (of the Tribunal), Dr Tim Gallimore, the spokesperson for the ICTR Chief Prosecutor said.

He added that the office has requested his transfer to Arusha to stand trial at the ICTR and his case is earmarked for trial at tribunal because of his rank as a political leader during the Genocide.

Ngirabatware served as Rwanda’s planning minister for four years leading up to the Genocide and has since been living in Gabon and in France for long periods.

In a related development, the Paris Court of Appeal on Wednesday once again released again Roman Catholic Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka and former prefet Laurent Bucyibaruta.

John Bosco Mutangana, the spokesman for prosecution confirmed the development yesterday.

“They were released temporarily and are under judicial control measures; the court will rule on their transfer on September 26,” he said.

Mutangana said that the two were released on grounds that their arrest warrants were again not clear.

The ICTR had asked the French court to facilitate the transfer of the duo to the tribunal’s dentition facility in Arusha, Tanzania.

“We are shocked by the release but we have to wait and see how the court will interpret the request, we will have to wait for the final decision,” Karugarama said of the releases. 

Rwanda had earlier called on France to extradite Munyeshyaka to Rwanda to serve his life sentence.

The Rwandan Military Tribunal last year convicted Munyeshyaka jointly with Maj. Gen. Laurent Munyakazi to life imprisonment after finding them guilty of the killings of hundreds of Tutsis at the St Famille Cathedral during the 1994 Genocide.

Both Munyeshyaka and Bucyibaruta appear on the list of key fugitives of the Genocide which was published by the Office of the Prosecutor General last year.

Meanwhile, the UN has reminded the ICTR that it must finish its first instance trials at the latest by the end of the next year.

In its resolution 1774 adopted last Friday the Security Council “called upon the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to take all possible measures to complete all trial activities at first instance by the end of 2008, and to complete all work in 2010 “.

The text “emphasized the importance of fully implementing the International Tribunal’s completion strategy and urges the Tribunal to plan and act accordingly”.

In the same decision, the Security Council unanimously voted to renew the mandate of the current ICTR prosecutor, Gambian Hassan Bubacar Jallow, for a four years period, as of last Saturday. The United Nations reserves the right to shorten this period if the tribunal completes its work earlier.

The ICTR, which began its trials in 1997, has up to date handed down 28 convictions and 5 acquittals. By the end of 2007, it will have cost a billion dollars. Twenty-nine accused are on trial while 6 await the beginning of their proceedings.
Additional reporting by agencies 

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