Arusha,24 April 2008 (FH) - The landmark hearing of transfer motion to Rwanda in case of genocide accused former businessman Yussuf Munyakazi,73, began Thursday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) with heated arguments from both the Prosecutor and the defence.

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The debate was interjected by the so called "Friends of the Court(Amicus Curie)-the Human Rights Watch, Bar of Kigali, Government of Rwanda and the International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association (ICDAA).

The ICTR Prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, stressed that Rwandan legal framework grants fair trial, adding that this was demonstrated by the latest decision of the French Chamberry Court of Appeal on 2 April which approved extradition of former Rwandan businessman Claver Kamanya to Kigali. "it is an indication of confidence in the Rwandan judiciary system," he told the three-bench Chamber presided by Judge Ines Weinberg de Roca (Argentina) and assisted b Lee Muthoga (Kenya) and Robert Fremr (Czech).

Munyakazi, from Cyangugu province southern Rwanda, is charged of genocide, complicity to genocide and extermination. He has pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution's 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.

"We are submitting that Rwandan is able to try the case," he pleaded with the Court.

Professor Jwani Mwaykyusa, lead defence counsel, strongly opposed the Prosecutor's move, saying Rwandan judicial lacked competence and was partial. "It is absurd to transfer a case to a system which should be answering the same charges," he said, apparently referring to the alleged atrocities committed by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) during the 1994 genocide and the indictments issued by French and, more recently, by Spanish judges against RPF soldiers. The ICTR Prosecutor has also said on many occasions they are also investigating the alleged RPF atrocities.

RPF, which is credited for stopping the genocide, is currently in power under President Paul Kagame.

"Rwandan judicial Independence and impartiality are doubtful," he stressed, underlining that the Rwandan system was not suitable to try this case. "In Africa, it's very common for the text of the law is extremely appealing, but in practice is extremely horrible," underscored Professor Mwaykyusa

The Human Rights Watch representative, Aisling Reidy, said that they have evidence of intimidation and harassment of legal officers and witnesses in Rwanda, adding that the defence had difficulties in securing witnesses.
She also doubted the financial ability of the Rwandan government to carry out a fair trial.

Rwandan Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, said that his country launched judicial reforms since 2003 without any external pressure. "What is important is to consider the policy [in place]...we brought the reforms so that we don't violate them," said Mr Ngoga, a former Rwandan government representative to the ICTR.

The Kigali Bar representative, Gatera Gashabana, said that the Rwandan law provided protection to an accused. "Legal aid is guaranteed," he stated.

Ms Hawa Ibrahim, an official of the ICDAA, said that they wanted to see sufficient evidence to believe that Rwandan judiciary was capable to try in an impartial manner. "We find difficulties if thera are sufficient materials on the ground [for a fair trial]".

The case continued in the afternoon.

Since June 2007, ICTR Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow has filed motions to transfer to Kigali five accused persons, including Munyakazi.

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.
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

© Hirondelle News Agency