Arusha, 30 May, 2008(FH) - A Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has turned down Prosecutor's motion of transfer of genocide accused former businessman, 73-year-old Yusuf Munyakazi, to stand a trial in Kigali as part of the UN Court's completion strategy.

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In a decision rendered on Wednesday, the three-bench judges ruled that they were not convinced that the accused would get a fair trial in Kigali." The Chamber is not satisfied that the accused, if transferred to Rwanda at the present time, will receive a fair trial," stated Judges Weinberg de Roca of Argentina (presiding), Lee Muthoga (Kenya) and Robert Fremr (Czech).

Kigali last year abolished the capital punishment, but the judges ruled that Rwanda's penalty structure such as life imprisonment in isolation, does not meet internationally recognized standards.

In the light of the past actions of the Rwandan government, the Chamber was also not convinced that Kigali respects the independence of the judiciary. "The Chamber is concerned that this situation may lead to direct or indirect pressure being exerted on judges to produce judgements in line with the wishes of Rwandan government'', they noted.

However, the Chamber would like to emphasise that it has taken notice of the positive steps taken by Rwanda to facilitate referral, read the decision, adding that if Rwanda continues along this path, the tribunal will hopefully be able to refer future cases to Rwandan courts.

"We are studying the decision. I will decide eventually whether to appeal or not," ICTR Prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, told Hirondelle Agency.

In another development, the trial of Protais Zigiranyirazo, brother-in-law of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana has now reached the judgement stage after two days of closing arguments by the prosecution and the defence.

The prosecutor requested life in prison for the accused whereas the defence called for an outright acquittal.

The defence considered that the prosecutor had not provided evidence that would make it possible for the Chamber to convict the 70-year-old Zigiranyirazo.

Zigiranyirazo is accused of having conspired in the planning of the Tutsi genocide and to have personally taken part in some attacks. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Zigiranyirazo trial began on 3 October 2001. As at the opening of his trial, the defendant, who was authorized to address the Chamber, considered it regrettable that the ICTR had still not investigated the attack against the plane of Habyarimana.

"Why this total disinterest of the international community vis-a-vis an attack which cost the life of two democratically elected presidents, and in the course of the performance of their duties, whereas it hastened to order investigations into the attack against the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Why two different standards? ", questioned Zigiranyirazo.

Habyarimana was killed together with the Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, who were both returning in a same plane from a regional peace meeting in Tanzania.

The week also saw closing arguments in the trial of former Rwandan top singer, Simon Bikindi.

The prosecutor requested Monday life in prison for Bikindi, accused before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to have, through his works, incited the 1994 genocide.

The first artist indicted before the UN Court, Bikindi faces six counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. He has pleaded not guilty.

"Mr. Bikindi deserves a sentence of imprisonment for the remainder of his life," stated William Egbe, the prosecuting attorney in his closing arguments of the trial which opened in September, 2006.

"His songs incited the genocide", added the Cameroonian attorney, denouncing the links of the musician with the infamous Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), which broadcast the messages of hate.

The lead defence counsel, Andrea O' Shea pointed to the "contradictions" in the prosecution's testimonies and invited the judges to "return Bikindi to his music".

At the heart of this trial are three songs in Rwandan interpreted in divergent ways by the prosecution and the defence.

The prosecution alleged that they are calls to unite Hutus in order to exterminate Tutsis, while Bikindi affirms to sing only about peace and democracy in his works.


© Hirondelle News Agency