Arusha, 12 March 2008 (FH) - Human Rights Watch (HRW) will appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as a "friend of the court (amicus curiae) during the hearing  of  the prosecutor's first transfer request to Rwandan court of  genocide accused Yussuf Munyakazi, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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Munyakazi is a former Rwandan businessman who is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. He has pleaded not guilty.

The hearing, which will be held on 24 April, will be the first of a series of hearings which will involve at least four people, including one suspect who is still at large.

The chamber allowed Monday a motion filed by the HRW on February 27.

HRW stated in its application that it was dedicated to investigating and exposing human rights violations around the world and due to its extensive research in this area, was often called upon to assist international
tribunals in prosecutions for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

It added that its researchers have testified at the ad-hoc tribunals and provided assistance to the International Criminal Court.

Dr Alison Des Forges, a historian and official from HRW for Africa, has on many occasions testified as an expert-witness for the prosecutor at the ICTR.

HRW mentions that it has valuable information on the current status of the Rwandan judicial system that will assist the chamber in making a proper determination of the case.
The American organization, headquartered in New York, points out that "although Rwanda has made notable progress in improving its judicial system, there remain serious obstacles to fair and credible prosecutions in Rwanda, especially for persons accused of genocide and other crimes relating to the events of 1994."

Among issues of concern, HRW alludes to the presumption of an accused person's innocence, the right of an accused to call witnesses in his or her defence and the right to be tried by a competent, independent and impartial court.

The prosecutor's transfer request for Munyakazi was filed on 7 September 2007.

Besides Munyakazi and Fulgence Kayishema (a suspect on the run), the others lined up for transfer to Kigali are: former mayor Jean Baptist Gatete, former army officer Ildephonse Hategikimana and businessman
Gaspard Kanyarukiga.

The chambers have not yet decided on a date for hearing of other motions of the prosecutor.

The Prosecutor declared this week to the Hirondelle Agency that he intended to file new transfer requests to national courts to meet exit strategy of December, 2008.

© Hirondelle News Agency