Arusha, 3 August 2007 (FH) - Caution was the keyword at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) after the release this week in France of two persons accused genocide.

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The Court of Appeals of Paris released Wednesday the former prefect of Gikongoro (southern Rwanda) and Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka arrested on 20 July at the request of the ICTR prosecutor.

Whereas the Rwandan authorities immediately, and unambiguously, condemned this decision, it took the ICTR several hours and pressure by the journalists to release a short official statement filled with caution.

This eight line statement indicates that "the reports that the French court of appeals has released concerning the two accused are being reviewed by the office of the prosecutor which is also consulting with the French Ministry of Justice about the matter".

The Ministry of Justice is the department which was the privileged partner of the prosecutor in negotiations which led to the arrest of the accused. The two men have been indicted in 2005.

The ICTR prosecutor is, moreover, following with attention the new developments of this case.

"The office of the prosecutor has learned that the decision of the court of appeals is subject to review", the statement says.

"The office of the prosecutor would like to wait for the review process to run its course before commenting further", the text concludes.

The accused were released, in particular, on the basis of the principle of presumption of innocence.

The prosecution wished that they be maintained in detention until the ICTR comes to a conclusion about the possible transfer of their cases to French courts.

Within the framework of its completion strategy, due to end by December 2008, the ICTR plans to transfer some cases to national courts, including those of Rwanda.

France agreed to try Munyeshyaka and Bucyibaruta but it needs the approval of an ICTR chamber. The ad hoc bench has been constituted but has yet to rule on the motion.

Besides this release, the news of the week was marked by the arrest of a witness accused of perjury, a first at the ICTR in its thirteen year history.

This Rwandan witness, known under the pseudonym GAA, testified in the trial of the former Minister Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, initially for the prosecution then for defence. Kamuhanda was convicted to life in prison.

Explaining his reversal, GAA declared that he had been induced into error by another witness for the prosecution.

The appeals chamber ordered an investigation which led to the indictment and arrest. He will be tried for contempt of the tribunal.

The maximum penalty that may be imposed on a person found to be in contempt of the tribunal shall be a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years, or a fine not exceeding 10,000 US dollars, or both, according to the rules.

© Hirondelle News Agency