The Lower Chamber of Parliament yesterday unanimously adopted the bill that will see Special Court for Sierra Leone convicts serve their sentences in Rwanda.
While presenting the bill to the lawmakers, Justice Minister, Tharcisse Karugarama said that government has met all the necessary requirements to host the war criminals.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone is an independent judicial body set up to try those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone during the civil war.
The bill follows an agreement signed between Rwanda and the United Nations-supported court.
Rwanda is the only African country to have signed the agreement to take up some of the convicts.
According to the agreement, the prisoners who could be transferred to Rwanda are those whose sentences vary from between 15 years to life imprisonment.
After the passing of the bill, Rwanda is expected to sign a memorandum of Understanding with the Court that would detail how the prisoners will be treated while in detention.
Several lawmakers put the minister to task to guarantee that the prisoners will be transferred to Rwanda.
“Do we have a guarantee in this deal that these prisoners will be transferred here to serve there sentence since the same UN has deliberately refused to transfer Rwandan criminals to serve their sentence here?” Juvenal Nkusi asked.
In his response, Karugarama said; “The guarantee is what we have put in place to meet standards and surely we have gone far beyond the international standards in terms of prisons with high facilities and security.”
Juliana Kantengwa expressed her worries over what she termed as negative forces that are against the transfers.
“Won’t these people still call for the halt of transferring the Sierra Leone convicts to Rwanda?” Kantengwa questioned Karugarama.
Desire Nkusi immediately intervened questioning if the transfer of Sierra Leone prisoners is not a trap aimed at assessing Rwanda’s preparedness in hosting international prisoners.
Karugarama assured members of parliament that it will instead be an opportunity for the country to exhibit its preparedness.
The passing of the bill comes after a delegation from the special court visited Rwandan prisons to assess the country’s preparedness in hosting the prisoners.
Rwanda has put in place a transit centre at Kigali Central Prison.
The transit centre is intended to temporarily host the prisoners awaiting transfer to Mpanga prison.