Arusha, 5 December 2007 (FH) - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) requested in a motion to the tribunal that the former mayor of Murambi, in eastern Rwanda, Jean-Baptist Gatete, be transferred to Rwanda to be tried there within the framework of the completion strategy of this tribunal.

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It is his fifth request for a trial in Rwanda. The four preceding motions entrusted to the various chambers of the ICTR have not yet been examined.

As in the preceding motions, the prosecutor argues that Rwanda already agreed to try the defendant and that it guaranteed that he will have a fair trial. The prosecutor explains that Kigali is qualified to try the crimes which are alleged against Gatete and, in the event of possible guilty verdict, he will not be sentenced to death. Rwanda abolished the death penalty in July. The ICTR cannot transfer a case to a country where the defendant faces capital punishment.

Gatete, 54, is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity; including rapes committed in the former prefectures of Byumba and Kibungo, in eastern Rwanda. The prosecutor affirms that in 1994, Gatete was a leader of the Interahamwe militia, spearhead of the genocide. Gatete was a mayor of Murambi (is) and senior official with the ministry for the family and women's development.

The prosecutor alleges that although he no longer exerted these functions during the genocide, he always had an influence on the communal police, the gendarmes and civilians in Byumba and Kibungo. Gatete was arrested in Congo Brazzaville on 11 September 2002.

Before Gatete, the prosecutor had already requested for the transfer to Rwanda of Lieutenant Ildephonse Hategikimana, the former businessemen Yussuf Munyakazi and Gaspard Kanyarukiga and the former police inspector Fulgence Kayishema. Hategikimana, Munyakazi and Kanyarukiga are, like Gatete, prisoners in Arusha, while Kayishema is at large.

Two organizations for the defence of human rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, like the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, issued criticisms on these projects, while doubting the fairness of possible trials.

The ICTR must theoretically finish its first instance trials by the end of 2008. With this intention, it plans to transfer towards national courts its defendants whom it will not have been able to try. The case of two accused were sent to France so that they are tried there.

Currently, 6 people are waiting in Arusha to appear before their judges. If these four requests for transfer succeed and that no new defendants are arrested, the ICTR, which would not have any more that two other trials to start, could respect its mandate. If not it will have to ask for an extension from the United Nations and its donors.

In thirteen years, the ICTR has tried 34 people, 28 are currently on trial and 90 were indicted.

© Hirondelle News Agency