07.03.08 - ICTR/RUTAGANIRA - ICTR PLEDGES TO ASSIST FORMER PRISONER SEEK NEW HOME

Arusha, 7 March 2008 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Friday said that it will assist the former genocide convicted Rwandan Councillor, Vincent Rutaganira, to find a new home following completion of his six-year jail term early this week.
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Rutaganira was set free on March 2.

"We gave him shelter and he can use it up to a reasonable time... it is up to Rutaganira to decide where to go. He is a free man," ICTR Deputy Registrar Everard O'Donnell told reporters at the Tribunal's seat in Arusha, Tanzania on Friday.

Rutaganira completed his sentence at the United Nations Detention Facility (UNDF) before he could get a host country.

The UNDF is not a prison, but only a temporary place to hold accused persons. Currently 17 other convicted persons are in the similar predicament.

The former councilor of Mubuga sector, Gishyita commune, West Rwanda, told Hirondelle on Thursday evening that the tribunal had ordered him to vacate the safe house where he was staying by Friday without providing him with any travel documents or direct him where to go thereafter.

But O'Donnell quickly dismissed the allegation, stating that the tribunal gave him all the support, including transport fare.

"Immediately after receiving 700 US dollars for his travel back to Rwanda via Nairobi and Uganda, former prisoner changed his mind,'' stated O'Donnell.

The deputy registrar elaborated that ICTR would not abandon Mr Rutaganira, but would assist him in his wish to settle in two European countries, which he declined to mention.

Rutaganira, on December 8, 2004 pleaded guilty to crime of complicity in extermination during the 1994 genocide and also confessed failure to take measures to protect Tutsis in his area. He was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment on March 14, 2005.

Two other acquitted persons, former Transport Minister Andre Ntagerura and former Education Minister Andre Rwamakuba, are still stuck in Arusha, waiting to get host countries. They were both acquitted in 2006.

Currently eleven trials are in progress involving 27 accused before the UN Court, which was set up in November, 1994 to try key suspects of genocide.

According to UN estimates 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the April-July massacres in the tiny central African state.

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