Threatens to close tribunal’s documentation centres
Following the recent decision by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to transfer nine convicts to Benin, government has reacted strongly, threatening to close some of the tribunal’s projects in the country.
The Tanzania-based UN court over the weekend transferred the convicts to the West African country an exercise that was described by the media as having been ‘strictly confidential.’
According to officials, Rwanda has on several occasions requested for the convicts to be transferred to Rwanda to complete their sentences but the tribunal has remained defiant.
Last year, an agreement was signed between the government of Rwanda and ICTR to have the convicts transferred to Rwanda but none has been brought so far.
“Circumstances are now that we are unlikely to continue allowing window-dressing petty projects like the documentation centres that they are largely marketing while they are not willing to cooperate on more serious matters,” said Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga when contacted yesterday.
The projects, according to Ngoga, include the documentation centres that were set up by ICTR across the country under what they call the outreach programme and they have so far opened ten of them countrywide.
Ngoga accused the 15-year old court of keeping the Rwandan government in a blackout on matters concerning the transfer of convicts despite the latter’s willingness to cooperate.
“They did not even have the minimum courtesy of informing us despite having been with the tribunal’s Registrar (Adama Dieng) last week,” charged Ngoga, who was Rwanda’s representative at the tribunal prior to his appointment as the country at Deputy Prosecutor and later Prosecutor General.
Dieng was in the country last week to open three of the documentation centres in different districts.
“We met then but he never even had the courtesy of informing me of the impending transfer of the convicts that took place a couple of days later.”
At least 20 convicts have been transferred to Mali and Benin while one, Belgian of Italian descent, Georges Ruggiu, the only non-Rwandan tried by the tribunal completed his 12-year sentence in Italy.
“Rwanda is the logical destination for these convicts and the ICTR should behave meaningfully and contribute to our reconciliation process…there have been all sorts of excuses and we tried to close every loophole but in vain,” Ngoga said.
Rwanda refurbished a detention facility in Mpanga, Southern Province that meets international standards, which was meant to host both the ICTR convicts and other suspects that may be transferred to Rwanda from other countries.
Different senior officials from the UN have said that Rwanda was the bonafide destination of both the convicts and the trials that might remain after the tribunal closes down.
The UN Security Council, the instituting organ of the Tribunal has directed that it closes down at the end of next year and the residues of the cases be referred to national jurisdictions.