Arusha, 7 March 2008 (FH) - Rwanda signed this week an agreement with the United Nations which will allow her to receive to its prisons people convicted of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), becoming the seventh country to cooperate in this direction with the tribunal.

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The other countries which have similar arrangements are: Mali, Benin, Swaziland, France, Italy and Sweden.

The deal was signed Tuesday in Kigali by the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charles Murigande, and the Registrar of the ICTR, Adama Dieng, on behalf of the UN.

Rwanda built in Mpanga, in the center of the country, a prison which, according to the ICTR, meets international standards.

The statute of the ICTR stipulates that the prison sentences are enforced in Rwanda or in a state indicated by the tribunal from the list of states which have let the Security Council know that they were ready to receive convicts.

While the agreement was being signed , the detainees in Arusha, Tanzania (seat of the UN court) protested against the deal, which according to them, aims at delivering convicts "to an unquestionable death, or at least, to inhuman and degrading treatments and torture".

"If the transfer to Rwanda was ever decided by the ICTR against our will, we ask our families and all the organizations which respects human rights, to hold the ICTR and the UN entirely responsible for the elimination or the ill treatment of whoever will be sent to this country", the detainees said in written letter addressed to the president of the ICTR.

The letter was signed by 30 of around fifty detainees.

The signatories of the letter had in addition announced a hunger strike and a boycott of the hearings.

Seventeen of them have already been sentenced and are waiting for a host country to serve their sentences.

Three trials continued during the week. They are Military II, Government II and Butare.

In Military II, four high ranking officers are involved. General Augustin Ndindiliyimana was presenting his defence case. The defendant was chief of staff of the gendarmerie in 1994.

The general was defended this week by the former head of the Tanzanian police force, Harun Mahundi.

Mahundi, who met the accused in Rwanda and in Tanzania before the genocide, described him as a man of peace, concerned with the safety of his country and its inhabitants.

On Thursday, the Military II trial was adjourned to 26 May. At its resumption, Ndindiliyimana will continue his defence. He has already called 27 witnesses. He still has almost as many remaining.

Butare and Government II are also at the defence stage.

Butare, in progress since 2001, involves six defendants. Government II, opened in 2003, involves four top officials.

Next week, three ex-officials of the former governing party MRND are expected to begin their defence.

The appeal chamber will also render a judgment in the trial of former Catholic Priest Athanase Seromba, sentenced to 15 years in prison in December 2006 for facilitating massacre of about 1, 500 of his followers. He has pleaded not guilty.

The tribunal will finally proceed with the release of "GAA", a protected witness who was sentenced to nine months in prison for contempt of the tribunal.

© Hirondelle News Agency