22.05.08 - ICTR/WEEKLY SUMMARY - UN COURT PONDERS OVER KABUGA'S SURRENDER OFFER

Arusha, 22 May 2008(FH)-The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was carefully studying the recent press report of Rwandan genocide fugitive, Felician Kabuga, that he preferred his surrender to the Rwandan government than the UN Court, to face charges of 1994 genocide.

 

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In an interview purported to be conducted in Norway by Oslo-based African Press International (API) dated 12 May, Kabuga claimed that he was ready to negotiate a supervised surrender on agreeable terms.

Impeccable UN tribunal sources told Hirondelle Agency that the report was being thoroughly studied. "We are looking at all sides of the interview," the source added.

However, the UN tribunal maintains that Kabuga was hiding in Kenya. "Our tracking team reports continuously points that Kabuga is hiding in Kenya,'' stated the source.

Kabuga is accused of being a key financier and suppied machetes to Interahamwe to kill ethnic Tutsis.Kabuga was in 1994 thrown out of Switzerland and went to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) before seeking refuge in Kenya, where he has escaped several attempts to arrest him, largely because of his secret connections with top government and security officials.

The longest and the largest trial before the UN Court proceeded this week. A former Rwandan Mayor, Elie Ndayambaje, began his defence case Tuesday after 13 years in detention.

Ndayamabaje, 50, former Mayor of the Muganza commune in Butare, southern Rwanda, was arrested on 28 June 1995 in Belgium. He is jointly tried with five other accused officials in the case known as "Butare Trial".

Started in June 2001, Butare Trial is the largest and longest trial involving six defendants, including the only woman, former Minister for Family and Women's Development Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and her son an alleged ex-militia leader Arsene Ntahobali. The other co-defendants are the former mayor of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi, former Governor Sylvain Nsabimana; and Butare Governor, Alphonse Nteziryayo

Meanwhile, in another trial dubbed as Government II, a defendant former Rwandan Minister for Civil Service during the 1994 genocide, Prosper Mugiraneza, Tuesday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that he was always worried about his life after he was suspected to be an ethnic Tutsi by some government officials shortly before the massacres began.

Mugiraneza is on a joint trial alongside three other ministers --Casimir Bizimungu (Health), Justin Mugenzi (Commerce) and Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs). All have pleaded not guilty to genocide and crimes against humanity in the trial, known as "Government II".

According to Mugiraneza, Tutsis and Hutus co-existed peacefully but when the war started mistrust crept in between the two ethnic groups especially after, Hutus learned that some young Tutsis were joining the RPF ranks to fight the government of the day.

The accused elaborated that during his reign as a minister, he abhorred ethnic discrimination among staff members or any sort of hostility because of political affiliation, unlike others.

Rwanda introduced multiparty system in 1992. Apart from the ruling party, MRND, other parties formed thereafter included MDR, PL, and PSD.

The case which started in November 2003 is before Trial Chamber III presided over by Judge Khalida Khan of Pakistan. The other judges are: Lee Muthoga (Kenya) and Francis Short (Ghana).

In another development this week, since the establishment of ICTR some 14 years ago for the first time, the Registry has appointed a counsel for an accused, Fulgence Kayishema, who is still on the run.

Kayishema, former Inspector of Judicial Police in Kibuye, western Rwanda, is sought by the Prosecution for 1994 killings and is in the list of five genocide accused persons considered for transfer to Rwanda to stand a trial.

According to the ICTR Spokesman, Roland Amoussouga, Tanzanian Jwani Mwaikusa, a law Professor at the University of Dar es Salaam, has been assigned to assist Kayishema.

Mwaikusa was also the lead Counsel for Yusuf Munyakazi, a former Rwandan trader and in the "list of five", during the landmark hearing of the prosecutor's transfer motion last month.

Next week resumes the "Military II Trial" in which four former army officers are jointly charged of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The defendants are two former chiefs of staff, Generals Augustin Bizimungu and Augustin Ndindiliyimana respectively in charge of the army and the gendarmerie in 1994, and two officers of the reconnaissance battalion, an elite unit of the former Rwandan army, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Captain Innocent Sagahutu.

It was General Ndindiliyimana who was presenting his defence case when the trial was adjourned on 6 March. He replaced General Bizimungu, the first to call defence witnesses in this case. So far, Ndindiliyimana has called 27 witnesses.

Next week will also see closing arguments in the trials of former Rwandan musician, Simon Bikindi and former businessman, Protais Zigiranyirazo who is the brother-in-law of the ex-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana. Both have pleaded not guilty to genocide and crimes against humanity.

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