Arusha, 21 February 2008 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will on 24 April begin a landmark hearing of a prosecution's motion seeking the transfer of a defendant to Rwandan court, according to a source at the UN court.

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The source hinted the motion involves the transfer of former businessman Yussuf Munyakazi, who is currently held at the UN Detention Facility in Arusha, the seat of the tribunal. The request was filed by the ICTR prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, last September.

Munyakazi, 73, former businessman in Cyangugu, is accused of genocide, complicity in genocide and extermination. He was arrested in May 2004 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The transfer was considered as part of the tribunal's "completion strategy" of all first instance trials by end of the year, as ordered by the UN Security Council.

The trial chamber will not only hear the prosecutor and the defence, but also the Rwandan government and the Bar of Kigali who have been adjoined in the case as amicus curie (friends of the court).

The chamber is made up of Presiding judge Argentinean Judge Ines Weinberg de Roca, Kenyan Lee Gacuiga Muthoga and Czech Robert Fremr.

Four others accused are the subject of similar transfer requests to Rwandan courts. Filed on 11 June 2007, the oldest motion involves an accused who is still at large, the former inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department, Fulgence Kayishema. The most recently, filed on 28 November 2007, targets the former mayor Jean Baptist Gatete, but no chamber has yet been assigned to examine it.

The others are Lieutenant Ildephonse Hategekimana and the former businessman Gaspard Kanyarukiga.

In August 2007, the ICTR annulled its court order which had entrusted to the Netherlands the responsibility to try the former head of the tea company in Rwanda, Michel Bagaragaza. The procedure of his new transfer to the headquarters of the tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, is before Dutch courts, according to Timothy Gallimore, spokesperson of the prosecutor.

Last November, the tribunal declined jurisdiction in favour of French courts the files of Abbot Wenceslas Munyeshyeka and the former prefect of Gikongoro (southern Rwanda), both exiled in France.

© Hirondelle Agency