ICTR detainees to get ‘official’ conjugal visits

Govt says it’s ridiculous The Registrar of the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has given the green light that allows detainees to practise their conjugal rights during the time of their detention. This was confirmed yesterday by the spokesman of the UN court, Roland Amoussouga by phone.
Adama Dieng (L) and Mutabingwa.
Adama Dieng (L) and Mutabingwa.

Govt says it’s ridiculous

The Registrar of the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has given the green light that allows detainees to practise their conjugal rights during the time of their detention. This was confirmed yesterday by the spokesman of the UN court, Roland Amoussouga by phone.

“It is correct that they have been granted these rights, but I cannot comment further because I am in a meeting,” Amoussouga said. The decision has, however, been termed by officials of the Government of Rwanda as ridiculous.

“This whole thing is a surprise both in terms of the decision as well as practice… The fact that the decision has taken over 13 years since these people are in detention remains questionable,” Mutabingwa said last evening.

Commenting on the practicability of this decision, the envoy said that it remained to be seen how this resolution will be enforced.

“Are they going to let persons who are not accused into the facility to meet their partners or will they let detainees out to meet their spouses?” Mutabingwa questioned. He said he intends to meet the Registrar to get clarifications on the modus operandi of this resolution.

“I have heard that this kind of arrangement is practised in another jurisdiction, but it remains ridiculous and I remain to be convinced on why it has been taken now after all these years,” he added bitterly.

Conjugal rights are currently accessed by detainees at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) which is based at The Hague in the Netherlands.

This decision by the Registrar, Adama Dieng, contradicts one he made a few years ago where he dismissed the requests by the accused, arguing that it was not an African culture. The tribunal even turned down a motion from Hassan Ngeze to get married and consummate his marriage in prison.

Ngeze was the editor of the inflammatory Kangura newspaper who is serving 35 years in prison. But reliable sources say that even before the official sanctioning of the conjugal visits by the Registrar, there have been cases of some prisoners receiving private visits from their spouses within the prison walls.

This has not only raised concerns from Tanzanian authorities of this special treatment, but, but some genocide suspects had even shunned the favours which they found to be “immoral”.

The ICTR detention facility was built within the confines of the Tanzanian government’s Arusha Prison which holds many petty criminals.

The Tanzanian prisoners have in the past complained of the special conditions enjoyed by people who had been condemned for the most heinous crimes, yet “chicken thieves” were living in squalor.

Benoit Kaboyi, the Executive Secretary of IBUKA, a Genocide Survivors’ Umbrella Organisation, said that the rights are ‘excessive’.

“I am a human rights activist despite my being an IBUKA official. As an activist, I find these rights excessive for persons accused of this kind of crime. There should be a limitation that differentiates them from normal persons,” he said. He added that the amenities they get are many and there should be a limit.

“I think their rights should be limited to food and shelter. I hear that they even have Internet!” he wondered. These allegations, however, have not been confirmed by the ICTR.

This decision has been taken when the time-barred tribunal faces a time limit from the UN Security Council which established it, after it set the deadline of end of this year for the court to wind up all trials, and appeals to end by 2010.

The tribunal has requested the Security Council for an extension of at least one year to deal with pending cases. A possible extension of the 14-year old tribunal is possible given the fact that many cases remain pending.

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