Arusha, 23 February 2008 (FH) – With just two weeks left to complete his six year sentence, the release of former Councillor in Mubuga in Kibuye, Vincent Rutaganira, sentenced to six years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), looks elusive despite an appeal by his lawyer for an early release.

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Detained by the United Nations tribunal since 4 March 2002, the former municipal Councillor was sentenced on 14 March 2005, after having pleaded guilty to the crime of "complicity in extermination" for not having taken measures in 1994 to protect Tutsis in his area.

On 6 March 2006,  defence lawyer, François Roux, who is also the first lawyer to have obtained an acquittal at the ICTR, filed before then president of the Tribunal , Norwegian Judge Erik Mose, a motion for early release.

Three months later, the judge refused the application with the reasons, inter alia, that the arguments on which the French lawyer based himself had already been taken into account in the determination of the six-year prison sentence, the shortest in history of the tribunal.

Mr Roux supported   his motion by pointing to the  jurisprudence at the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the quasi-systematically grants early release to convicts having served the two thirds of their sentences.

This recourse was rejected by the appeals chamber on 24 August 2006. But the lawyer did not stop the fight: in a motion dated 22 February 2007, he requested the president reconsider his decision of 2 June 2006.

On 21 May 2007, when Judge Dennis Byron who succeeded Judge Mose, as the head of the tribunal, the motion was still pending. On 13 February, as the release from prison of the former municipal councillor was announced for the 29th of the same month, the new ICTR president rejected the attempt.

The other trouble is that even when released, Rutaganira may find it difficult to get a host country to accept him as is the case currently with two other acquitted persons at the tribunal.

© Hirondelle News Agency