Arusha, 24 April, 2008(FH) - Genocide accused Yussuf Munyakazi Thursday claimed that the ICTR Prosecutor tried to induce him to make a confession of guilty plea to get his sentence reduced. 

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Mr Munyakazi who is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity during 1994 massacres, made the allegation during hearing of a prosecutor's motion to have the former Rwandan businessman get transferred to Kigali for a trial. The 73-year-old accused has pleaded not guilty.

"I can't testify wrongly," he told the three-bench Chamber presided by Judge Ines Weinberg de Roca (Argentina) and assisted by Lee Muthoga (Kenya) and Robert Fremr (Czech), hearing first such motion before the court, which was established in November 1994 to try key suspects of the slaughter, which according to the United Nations, claimed lives of about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Mr Munyakazi alleged that he was kept for nine months in a solidarity confinement.

"I was not part of the Hutu-power [who committed genocide] and that I am innocent," he stressed, adding that since he fled Rwandan in 1996 his properties have been confistigated and his family members intimidated by the authorities. "At my house nothing is left. Even the house is taken by Tutsis, not from Bugarama [his native home] but from Tutsis from elsewhere."

His 12 children, he claimed, were killed by the Tutsis in 1997.

Earlier, the landmark hearing met heated arguments from both the Prosecutor and the defence.

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, Justice 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.

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.

Professor Jwani Mwakyusa, 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.

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.

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," he said.

The chamber completed the hearing Thursday afternoon and is yet to announce the date for a ruling.

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