Arusha, 22 April 2008 (FH) - The first hearing of transfer motion to Rwanda of persons accused of 1994 genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is set for Thursday in the case of former businessman Yussuf Munyakazi, a hearing which is widely expected to determine the completion strategy of the UN tribunal.

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Munyakazi, 73, is accused of genocide, complicity to genocide and extermination. The ex-businessman in Cyangugu province, southern Rwanda, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The motion requesting his transfer was filed on 7 September 2007, within the framework of the ICTR completion strategy, which wants to transfer some cases to national jurisdictions in order to finish by the end of the year all first instance trials as directed by the Security Council.

Seven accused held in Arusha are currently awaiting their trials. Three others are detained in Europe awaiting their transfers to the ICTR, whereas 13 suspects are still on the run.

But, apart from France, which has agreed to try two of them, countries not having a link with the defendants seem hardly interested in the ICTR cases; making Rwanda the main potential destination.

Thus since June 2007, ICTR Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow, taking into account evolution of the Rwandan judicial system and in particular, the recent abolition of the death penalty, has filed motions to transfer to Kigali five accused persons, including Munyakazi.

However, organizations for the defence of human rights have strongly opposed the transfers, alleging that Rwanda does not yet have the essential criteria necessary for a fair and free trial.

On the other hand, Kigali argues that its courts, which have been trying genocide case since 1998, are better equipped, for the purpose than any other national jurisdiction.

Based on the briefs already filed, Thursday's hearing is expected to be a crucial showdown between the two camps which are equally represented: On one side, the ICTR prosecutor, the Rwandan government and the bar of Kigali and on the other hand the defence , the International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association ( ICDAA) and the New York- based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The main debaters will, of course, be the Prosecutor and the lawyers for Munyakazi.

The four others to contribute to the debate are only "Friends of the Court" (Amicus Curie) and they will only intervene on legal issues which might be important for the judges' consideration in the case.

The trial is before Judges Ines Weinberg de Roca (presiding), Lee Muthoga and Robert Fremr.

Whatever the outcome of the judgement may be, it is expected to be subject of an appeal by either the defence or the prosecutor. The final decision will be crucial barometer for the other motions, current or yet to come, even if the motions must be examined individually.

The others accused targeted by transfer requests to Kigali are: former Commander of Ngoma Camp Lieutenant Ildephonse Hategekimana, businessman Gaspard Kanyarukiga, former Mayor Jean Baptist Gatete and former Inspector of Judicial Police, Fulgence Kaysihema. The latter is still at large.

Headquartered in Arusha, northern Tanzania, ICTR has, to date, delivered 30 convictions and 5 acquittals.


© Hirondelle News Agency