Arusha, September 20, 2001 (FH) France on Thursday confirmed it has agreed to receive former Rwandan mayor Ignace Bagilishema, the first person to be acquitted of genocide charges by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Paris says it will host him on a temporary basis until the Prosecutor's appeal is heard.

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"This decision was taken in the spirit of cooperation which France has always had towards the Tribunal, also in the superior interests of international criminal justice and its fundamental principles, which includes the presumption of innocence," said François Rivasseau, spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry. "Mr. Bagilishema will be received and will be able to stay in France until the appeal hearing. "Bagilishema was acquitted of all charges against him on June 7th this year. The court ordered his immediate release, but attached conditions after the Prosecutor announced her intention to appeal and asked that Bagilishema be kept in custody. The conditions include two persons of high moral standing to guarantee that he will turn up in court. He must also hand in his passport and report regularly to the police. France turned down an earlier request to host Bagilishema, despite being the only country where the court's conditions could be satisfied. Other countries, including the United States and several Scandinavian countries, also said they would not take him. Bagilishema has thus remained in ICTR custody. The ICTR then asked Paris to reconsider its position. Informed sources told Hirondelle an official letter from French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine has now been handed to ICTR Vice-President Erik Mose of Norway, who is also president of the Trial Chamber that acquitted Bagilishema. Spokesman Rivasseau pointed out that there is no provision for acquittal in the ICTR Statute. "No provision of the ICTR Statutes foresaw this situation," he told journalists. "The Registrar of the ICTR asked Mr Hubert Védrine in June to receive Mr. Bagilishema on our territory, ensuring the necessary conditions of security and judicial control. All other countries that the Tribunal had approached (…) having turned down the request, the Tribunal renewed its decision to France which accepted. "Bagilishema was arrested in February 1999 in South Africa. He was mayor of Mabanza, western Rwanda, from February 1980 to July 1994. Bagilishema is married with six children. JC/PHD/FH (BS0920f)