Arusha, 17 July 2008 (FH) – The guilty plea agreement between genocide suspect Michel Bagaragaza and the Office of Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) remains confidential pending it being finalized in an open court, a Trial Chamber has ruled. The decision follows a motion filed by genocide accused Joseph Nzirorera, ex-Secretary General of the then Rwanda’s ruling MRND party, to inspect the guilty plea agreement of the former boss of Rwandan tea authority as he considered the document useful for his defence.

2 min 6Approximate reading time

“The motion is granted in its entirety. Disclosure of plea agreement delayed until it is finalized in an open court,’’ the presiding judge Dennis Byron of Trial Chamber Three ruled in a decision issued on 7 July. However, the Chamber did not set hearing date of the guilty plea agreement, although Hirondelle Agency learnt that a closed-door status conference was held on Monday.
Nzirorera, a former important figure in then Juvenal Habyarimana regime, is jointly tried with two other top party officials— Mathieu Ngirumpatse (President) and Edouard Karemera (Vice President) of 1994 genocide and crimes against humanity. All three have pleaded not guilty.
“The Prosecutor requests the Trial Chamber to dismiss the defence motion in its entirety or in the alternative, to maintain the confidentiality of plea agreement until the acceptance of Bagaragaza’s guilty plea in an open court,’’ responded Senior Trial Attorney, Tanzanian Wallace Kapaya ,in his written submission dated 17 June.
Bagaragaza was transferred in mid May back to Arusha from The Hague, The Netherlands, following revocation of an application by the ICTR Prosecutor for referral of the case because the Dutch courts do not have any jurisdiction in trying such a case.
Bagaragaza, on 16 August 2005, surrendered to the Tribunal in Arusha and was charged with four counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
On 18 August 2005, the accused was transferred to the Special UN Detention Facility (UNDF) of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) following a request by the ICTR Prosecutor to grant the transfer for security reasons.
This was followed by two attempts by the Prosecutor to transfer Bagaragaza’s case to Norway and to The Netherlands.
In Norway, the trial chamber, relying on the submissions by the Norwegian Prosecutor, found that Oslo did not provide for the crime of genocide.
When the Prosecution renewed its request for referral to The Netherlands, it was supported by a statement of the Dutch prosecutor that the Netherlands had jurisdiction to try the case. However, The Hague District Court afterwards stated that the Dutch Courts do not also have any jurisdiction in trying such cases.
Bagaragaza, a close relation of the former President Habyarimana, is accused of having contributed to create, finance, train and arm the Interahamwe militia, the main armed faction of the1994 genocide.
Bagaragaza, if his guilty plea was accepted by the Chamber, will be the ninth defendant of the ICTR to recognize their guilt in the genocide.
Except for the former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, all the persons who have pleaded guilty have benefited from a substantial reduction in their sentences.
One of them, the former town councillor Vincent Rutaganira, was released from prison at the beginning of March after having served his six years; the shortest sentenced ever delivered by the ICTR.
Headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania, the ICTR has delivered so far, 31 convictions and five acquittals.