Arusha, 9 August 2006 (FH) - Kigali has declared itself ready to assume the post-mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is due to close its doors in December 2008.

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This position is stated at all the joint meetings between Rwanda and the ICTR having to due with the completion strategy of this UN tribunal and during the sessions of the Security Council, which created the ICTR thirteen years ago.

Rwanda estimates that it is the legitimate heir to all the of the ICTR's legacy, made up of accused at large, ongoing cases, persons convicted and archives.

The ICTR has a list of 18 accused still at large. Rwanda recommends that their whereabouts be made public, noting in particular the businessman Félicien Kabuga and his son-in-law, the former minister Augustin Ngirabatware.

Kigali estimates that if the fugitives are arrested around December 2008 or after that date, they should be transferred to Rwanda where the crimes were committed, the objective being restoring people's faith in justice.

Kigali could however accept that another court seize these cases if their extradition would face obstacles.

Rwanda is however opposed to a temporary structure being maintained in Arusha, after the closing of the ICTR, to possibly try such cases. That would lead, it says, indefinitely to prolonging the mandate of this tribunal whereas it is not a permanent court.

Rwanda also requires a formal recognition by the UN Security Council of the individuals who, in its opinion, were withdrawn from the list of ICTR fugitives, which it believes constitute suspects of very high rank which must be apprehended.

The Rwandan authorities refer, among others, to Jean-Marie Nzapfakumunsi and Aloys Ntiwiragaba, both senior officers of the former Rwandan army.

Rwanda proposes that a small team charged with tracking the suspects remain operational after the end of the ICTR mandate and that its mission includes not only the arrest of the 18 known fugitives but also other important accused.

As for the cases that will still be pending on 31 December 2008, the position of the Rwandan government is that they should be transferred to Rwanda's national jurisdiction.

Kigali argues that the evidence as well as the majority of the witnesses are in Rwanda and that, moreover, the holding of the cases in the country is in line with the government policies towards reconciliation, which is the central to the mandate of the ICTR.

Rwanda indicates that is has already prepared the ground by promulgating laws allowing the transfer of the cases, notably the law which abolished the death penalty.

The government requests, in the same order, that the people convicted by the ICTR be transferred to Rwanda to serve their sentences.

Kigali states that it meets all the conditions rendering it possible to receive convicts. A prison was built in Mpanga, in the Southern province, and it was inspected by ICTR representatives. Rwanda asserts that the transfer of convicts is being delayed by unexplainable bureaucratic reasons.

Concerning the supervision of the sentences, Kigali, in the name of national sovereignty, is against a regulation which stipulates that it is the ICTR, in last resort, that will determine whether pardon or commutation is appropriate.

Rwanda estimates, finally, that there is no reason why the ICTR archives should not be repatriated to Rwanda. It explains they would augur well with the existing genocide memorial sites and would remain useful evidence to courts of law in Rwanda and elsewhere.

The wish of the government of Rwanda is that the international community actively supports its capacity building efforts so that it can effectively face these challenges after the completion of ICTR's mandate.

© Hirondelle News Agency