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Arusha, January 9th 2007 (FH) - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) asked the judges in a request issued December 12th to transfer to the Dutch justice the former head of the Rwandan tea trade, Michel Bagaragaza. In December 2004, Bagaragaza, currently in prison in The Hague, signed a cooperation deal with the prosecutor. He has already testified against other defendants on trial before the ICTR. A first request aiming at having him transferred to the Norwegian justice had been rejected by the judges on the grounds that the criminal code of the country does not punish genocide crimes, one of the charges Bagaragaza faces. The prosecutor of the ICTR can transfer an accused to a national jurisdiction only if it a chamber specially appointed to this purpose by the president of the ICTR, authorizes it. The president of the international tribunal, Erik Mose (Norway), ordered on December 13th that the request for the transfer of Bagaragaza’s case to the Netherlands would be examined by another chamber presided by Judge Khalida Rashid Khan (Pakistan) with Judge Sergei Egorov (Federation of Russia) and Judge Inès Weinberg de Roca (Argentina). Bagaragaza is the first defendant whose transfer to a national jurisdiction the prosecutor has requested under the article 11bis of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The reference of cases to national courts is part of the completion strategy of the ICTR, which has to close all trials before first instance courts in 2008. The accused, close to the former president Juvénal Habyarimana, had turned himself in to the ICTR in August 2005.

The head of the Rwandan tea trade during the 1994 genocide, Bagaragaza is notably accused of having contributed to create and fund the Interahamwe and train the militiamen to launch attacks against Tutsi civilians.

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