05.03.08 - ICTR/SENTENCES - SIGNING AGREEMENT WITH KIGALI IS MILESTONE ACHIEVEMENT

Arusha, 5March,2008(FH)-The signing of enforcement of sentences agreement between Kigali and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday is considered as a milestone achievement in the co-operation between the two parties, according to Registrar Adama Dieng.
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"This agreement appears as the last brick completing the legal framework which qualifies Rwanda as one of the countries that may be deemed suitable for the enforcement of sentences handed down by the ICTR,'' Mr Dieng said during the signing ceremony, which was also attended by top judicial officials from both sides.

Charles Murigande, Rwanda' Foreign Minister, signed on behalf of his government and Mr Dieng, for the UN.

However, he noted that the agreement took much longer than with other six countries [Mali, Italy, France, Benin, Swaziland, Norway] due to complexity of the relationship between ICTR and Rwanda.

Dieng said: "At last this process we have initiated more than three years ago, has reached its epilogue."

The bottom line of imprisonment, he explained, was not meant to entail any other punishment than the deprivation of the right to move freely. "All other rights of the convict should be left untouched, in so far as
they are compatible with the regime of detention,'' he said.

He admitted that Rwanda had created prison facilities which conform with international standards.

Mr Murigande said that the government would like to educate people in Rwanda "by showing them that you cannot commit such heinous crimes and escape justice."

He urged ICTR to send prisoners to other countries, only if the Rwandan government turned them down. "We are told that there are plans underway to hurriedly send many more prisoners to other countries... we hope that this signing is going to put and end to these manoeuvers,'' stressed the Foreign Minister.

The UN Security Council decided that in respect of the former Yogoslavia Tribunal (ICTY), no convict would serve the sentence in the country of origin, but the position was not drastic for Rwanda.

"The signing symbolized the commitment of ICTR and Rwanda to see that reconciliation in Kigali becomes a reality...it was well elaborated ceremony,'' Mr Roland Amoussouga told Hirondelle on the phone from Kigali on Tuesday.

According to UN estimates, about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the April-July slaughter.

ICTR currently holds 16 convicted persons who are yet to find a host country.

Six convicts, including the former Prime Minister during the genocide Jean Kambanda, are serving their sentences in Mali whereas former Belgian-Italian Journalist, Georges Ruggiu, the only non-Rwandan implicated in the killings, flew last Thursday to Italy to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Trials are underway for 27 accused persons in eleven trials at the UN Court.

The UN has set a deadline of December, 2008 to complete all first instance trials and 2010 for appeals.

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© Hirondelle News Agency