The Chief Prosecutor the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR), Boubacar Jallow, yesterday said that the decision by the tribunal to transfer its first detainee to Rwanda for trial, marks a ‘historical moment’ and will set a new precedence in dealing with impunity globally.
Jallow made the announcement during a news conference at the handover of Genocide suspect, Jean Uwinkindi’s file, to Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga. The suspect is expected to arrive in the country this week. Jallow said that the referral to Rwanda signifies the progress the Rwandan justice system has made.
This is the first time the ICTR is sending a detainee to Rwanda for trial in over 16 years of its existence.
“This is the first time that we are having a detainee who the trial chamber has agreed to refer here, and it’s consequent upon the Judges of the ICTR and also consequent upon our own rules---rule 11, that I am here with my colleagues to hand over to the Prosecutor General of Rwanda,”
“The materials support the indictment as well as the prosecution case file relating to the case for them to start examining in anticipation of the arrival of the detainee to this jurisdiction,” Jallow said, before handing over the files.
“With the significant law reforms and capacity building that has taken place in Rwanda, with the support of donors and the ICTR, we have been able to finally convince the judges that the legal framework in this country adequately provides for fair trial for any of the accused sent over to this country”.
Jallow commended the government and the donor community for the continued support to the systems, noting that referral to Rwanda will be a very important step in many respects.
“It is very important in many respects. For us, it is an important aspect of our completion strategy. It enables us to send our remaining cases to this jurisdiction for trial,” the Gambian national said.
“For many other countries, in which you have fugitives whom we have not indicted but Rwanda has fugitives residing there, it means probably the end of impunity. “In other words, extradition of Genocide suspects from other countries is now likely to follow, upon the endorsement of the ICTR of the fairness of the legal system in country”.
On his part, Ngoga commended the ICTR Prosecutor and his office for arguing out Rwanda’s case and finally convincing the judges that Rwanda can handle the cases, describing the day as ‘historical and important.
He added that the day was important for the country’s justice system, observing that the country started from the scratch 17 years ago, when it had nothing in place, but now, the ICTR which represents the international community in general, confidently handed over a detainee to Rwanda
“It is a very important day in the history of the reconstruction of our justice system,” Ngoga said adding, that “it came out of commitment and determination of the country to put in place a functional justice system”.
Despite some remaining challenges, Ngoga said yesterday’s announcement showed the world how far the country has come, adding however that whatever reforms the country made, were not out to meet the demands of the ICTR, but to build a good system for Rwandans themselves.
“At the end of the day, whatever we did remains part of our system and adds value to our system,” Ngoga said, adding that Rwanda will live to its commitments.
“This day not only marks the beginning of one step, but also the beginning of another one which will most probably be more challenging; but we realise the importance of the task ahead of us and understand very well the commitments we make.”
He said that not only ICTR will attach great importance to the outcome of the first case to determine whether more cases could be referred to Rwanda, but also the international community that has cases that could possibly be referred to Rwanda, saying there will be no ‘shortcomings or mistakes.’
“As the Gacaca system has proven, Rwandans are committed to a form of justice that respects the rights of all concerned, and also facilitates healing and reconciliation. We are delighted that the ICTR has come to agree with us – and now clearly recognises the depth of our capabilities and commitment.”
Jallow also said that on a prosecutor-to-prosecutor basis, he had handed over some 55 case files of people, who had not been indicted, for further investigations and prosecution as considered fit.
The Government of Rwanda welcomed the transfer as ‘a key milestone for Rwandan Justice’.
Jean Uwinkindi, a former Pentecostal pastor, was arrested in Uganda in June 2010 on counts of Genocide, Conspiracy to Commit Genocide and Extermination as a Crime against Humanity.
He is alleged to have led several groups of armed killers targeting Tutsi civilians in multiple attacks that spanned the 100 days of the Genocide between April and July 1994.
Closely aligned with the extremist wing of the MRND party, Uwinkindi is alleged to have sought the assistance of gendarmes within the ex-FAR to exterminate the local Tutsi population. After he fled in July 1994, 2,000 corpses were discovered near his church.