The United Nations genocide court in Tanzania is reneging on its promise to transfer Rwandan convicts to serve the remainder of their sentences in their homeland, Rwanda’s justice minister said.
Tharcisse Karugarama said he did not understand why the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) had not returned convicts when Rwanda’s jails were deemed sufficient for those convicted by Sierra Leone’s war crimes court.
“We signed an agreement with ICTR to transfer the convicts to serve out their sentence here. So far they have not done it. We don’t know why,” he told Reuters.
About 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by Hutu militias within 100 days during the 1994 genocide.
Since its establishment in 1994 the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania, has convicted 38 people for their role in the genocide and acquitted six. Rwanda, Italy, Benin, Swaziland, France, Sweden and Mali have signed an agreement to host convicts.
Last week, the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) moved eight people convicted of crimes during a decade-long civil war to the “UN block” in Rwanda’s Mpanga prison.
It was the first time international convicts had been imprisoned in Rwanda.
ICTR spokesperson Roland Amoussouga said the decision on where to house convicts lay with the court and so far no decision had been made with regard to the designation of Rwanda.
He said in the case of the Sierra Leone convicts, it was the ICTR registrar who advised that court to explore with Rwandan authorities the possibility of an agreement for the prisoners.
Originally, the Sierra Leone court wanted its prisoners to serve their sentences in the French-speaking West Africa countries of Benin or Mali, but could not do so due to language barriers, Amoussouga said.
Karugarama said justice would be better served if the ICTR convicts were sent from Arusha to Rwanda, and that they would enjoy better access for their relatives.
“ICTR are on record as saying the facilities are much better than those in Arusha. So it will be a contradiction and a mystery if they don’t send the prisoners here,” Karugarama said.
Pic: Victims of the 1994 Rwanda genocide