KIGALI - The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Hassan Boubacar Jallow has referred to Rwanda case files of 25 Genocide suspects.
According to Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, who received the files, this is a vote of confidence that the tribunal has in the country’s judicial system.
“We accepted and promised to do what needs to be done on those cases,” Ngoga said when contacted for a comment yesterday.
After the handover of the files, which were both in electronic and hard copy form, a statement from the Tanzania-based tribunal quotes Jallow as saying that the development emphasizes the partnership between the tribunal’s prosecution and Rwanda’s national jurisdiction.
“He commended the Rwandan government for the improvements it has made to its judicial infrastructure and capacity,” reads part of the statement released yesterday.
Ngoga emphasized that the files handed over were for suspects still at large and whose indictments have not yet been issued.
“These are among the cases the Prosecutor has been investigating but due to completion calendar, he decided to pass them over to us because the ICTR may not be able to pursue them further,” Ngoga said.
The time-barred tribunal has until the end of next year to have cleared or transferred to national jurisdictions all pending cases as it will be closing shop as directed by the UN Security Council, its instituting organ.
During the meeting between the two prosecutors, it was agreed that the ICTR Prosecutor, for the second time, tables before the court an application to have some indicted or even apprehended suspects transferred to Rwanda.
The first time Jallow tabled similar requests before the tribunal, it was rejected, but it was agreed in the meeting yesterday that the judicial reforms the country has undergone have since addressed the issues on which the court had based to deny the referrals.
“We are both optimistic because despite the decisions in the past, we have attended to the issues on the basis of which the applications were rejected. This time around, we think they will be allowed,” Ngoga said.
Meanwhile, the president of IBUKA, the umbrella body of Genocide survivors’ associations, welcomed the development, saying that this demonstrates the confidence the tribunal has gained in the Rwandan judicial system.
“There have been many fugitives arrested in several countries but could not be extradited to Rwanda because the tribunal had set precedent that our judiciary could not be trusted to handle these cases,” said IBUKA president
Theodore Simburudari. He added that despite the work done by the tribunal for the past 15 years, there have been setbacks that have ‘disturbed’ the survivors, specifically citing the behaviour of some defence lawyers at the UN court, who have been blatantly denying that the Genocide took place in Rwanda.
Aldo Havugimana, a Genocide survivor from the Southern Province, said that this is another way to honour his loved ones who were killed in the Genocide.
“Having justice dispensed here in our backyard will inevitably be a relief since we will have to witness it ourselves. We trust the ICTR has done a good job, but it is always better to have the Rwandan judiciary handle these cases,” said Havugimana, who heads the Huye-based Radio Salus, in a telephone interview.
This brings the number of fugitives whose files were sent to Rwanda to 55. A few years ago, the ICTR Prosecutor handed over 30 files.