Arusha, 30 July 2007 (FH)-Kigali has just abolished the death penalty, opening the way to the transfer of genocide cases from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) or from foreign countries.  

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"The death penalty is hereby abolished ", according to an organic law promulgated by President Paul Kagame and published in the Official Gazette of 25 July.

This law, which is comprised of ten articles, stipulates that "the death penalty is substituted by life imprisonment or life imprisonment with special provisions".

The law distinguishes life imprisonment from life imprisonment with special provisions, which is comprised of several modalities.

The law specifies that a person convicted to life imprisonment with special provisions is notably kept in isolation. They can, also, no longer "benefit from any kind of mercy, conditional release or rehabilitation, unless he or she has served at least twenty years of imprisonment."

All "atrocious crimes" are also subject to life imprisonment with special provisions.

The category of the atrocious crimes includes genocide and crimes against humanity, torture having resulted in death, murder or other killing with dehumanizing acts on the dead body.

Also included are acts of terrorism resulting in the death of persons, rape of children, sexual tortures and establishing or running a criminal organization aimed at killing persons.

Other crimes which were subject to the death penalty before the promulgation of the new law, such as premeditated murder or high treason with an aim of overthrowing the constitutional powers, will from now on be punishable by life imprisonment. Cases of recidivism previously punishable by death are punishable by life imprisonment with special provisions.

Death sentences pronounced before the commencement of this law are hereby converted into life imprisonment or life imprisonment with special provisions. Approximately 600 persons have been convicted to the death penalty in Rwanda.

The abolition of the death penalty, however, does not involve the suppression of accessory penalties imposed by the judges. The accessory penalties recognized by the Rwandan criminal code include civic degradation and governmental service.

The abolition of the death penalty also does not involve the suppression of the right to civil action by the victim or the payment of damages and court fees decided by the court.

The new law also states that Rwanda cannot extradite a suspect to a country where he or she would face the death penalty.

"In case the crime for which extradition is required and is punishable by death in the applying State, the Government shall not grant extradition unless the applying State produces formal guarantees that the death penalty will not be executed".

Rwanda was itself, in the past, victim of this provision applied by several countries, and the ICTR, when it would ask for the extradition of its citizens suspected of genocide.


© Hirondelle News Agency