Arusha, 15 August 2007 (FH) - A person accused of genocide and war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the former managing director of the controlling organisation for the tea industry in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, Michel Bagaragaza, which the case had been transferred to the Netherlands, fears being transferred to a Rwandan court. 

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On 8 August, the ICTR prosecutor, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, after having noted that the project to try Bagaragaza in the Netherlands was likely to fail, asked the judges of the ICTR to annul the decision of transfer so that the defendant could be handed over to the United Nations tribunal.

And yet, "the prosecutor recently confirmed to the defence that the ICTR cannot judge the defendant", affirms his lawyer, Geert Jan Alexander Knoops. "The prosecutor indicated to the defence that it would ask that the Bagaragaza case be tried by a Rwandan court in Kigali, and that it would be the single possible option for Bagaragaza, unless he signs a plea agreement", the lawyer wrote Monday in response to the motion of the prosecutor.

"Seeing that there is not another option for the prosecutor but to ask that the case to be transferred to Rwanda when it will have been transferred to the ICTR, the defence anticipates that Mr. Bagaragaza will not have a fair trial", states Knoops.

The defender also invokes "questions of safety", insofar as, according to him, "Mr. Bagaragaza made several statements to the prosecutor, in which he openly accused the governing party in Rwanda and several individuals of having committed serious crimes".

"Bagaragaza made these statements after having received from the prosecutor the promise that he would not be tried on the African continent. Transferring Bagaragaza to Rwanda would result almost certainly in his death ", explains the statement in English.

"The fact that Rwanda has now abolished the death penalty does not indicate that the defendant will have a fair trial", adds Knoops.

The ICTR prosecutor filed his motion on the advice of the Ministry of Justice and the crown of the Netherlands.

According to Jallow's motion, these two Dutch institutions estimate, in the light of a recent decision rendered by the Court of the district of The Hague in the case of another Rwandan accused of genocide, Joseph Mpambara, that the project to try Bagaragaza in the Netherlands has little chance of thriving.

In this 24 July decision by the Court of the district of The Hague, the judges affirm that their jurisdiction is not qualified to hear allegations of genocide in cases transferred from the ICTR to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Described at the time of his surrender as a "key witness" for the prosecutor, Bagaragaza has already testified against other ICTR accused. Heard several times in closed session, he was publicly revealed in the trial of Protais Zigiranyirazo, the brother-in-law of President Habyarimana, obligating the tribunal to go to The Hague to hear him.

Since his surrender in August 2005, he has been held in The Hague, for safety reasons, under the terms of an agreement made with the prosecutor.

© Hirondelle News Agency