Arusha,25 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) was held on Thursday in the case of former businessman Yusuf Munyakazi.

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Munyakazi, 73, is accused of genocide, complicity to genocide and extermination. The accused who hails from 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.

The landmark hearing was met with 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. "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).

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

Professor Jwani Mwaikusa, 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.

"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.

Munyakazi in his winding up statement claimed that the ICTR Prosecutor tried to induce him to make a confession of guilty plea to get his sentence reduced. "I can't testify wrongly," he told the Chamber. The UN Court 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.

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.

In another case of four top government officials before the UN Court, a defence witness said former Minister for Civil Service, Prosper Mugiraneza, did not participate in the 1994 genocide.

A Rwandan State Attorney, Jean Rusatira, said that former Minister was not mentioned among the accused who took part in the massacres.

Mugiraneza is charged for genocide and crimes against humanity alongside three other former ministers --Jerome Bicamumpaka, former Minister for Foreign Affairs; Casimir Bizimungu, ex-Minister for Health; and former Minister for Commerce Justin Mugenzi. All four have pleaded not guilty.

Led by Mugiraneza's American lead counsel Tom Moran, the defence witness, who was one of the members of the bench which handled genocide cases in Kigarama commune in Kibungo prefecture from where Mugiraneza hailed, testified that the accused's name never featured in the two judgments he participated to draft.

The trial, which is before Trial Chamber III presided by Judge Khalida Khan of Pakistan, continues next week.


© Hirondelle News Agency