Arusha, 25 June 2008 (FH) - Genocide-accused former boss of Rwandan tea authority , Michel Baragaragaza, has signed a guilty plea agreement over the 1994 killings with the Office of Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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However, the details of the agreement remain confidential, reports Hirondelle Agency.

Two former officials prosecuted by the ICTR in two separate cases-- Protais Zigiranyirazo, brother-in-law of the former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Joseph Nzirorera, a former important figure in then Habyarimana regime-- have filed a motion requesting for the agreement to be transmitted to them, which is a useful document to their defence before the UN Court, trying the key architects of the 1994 slaughter.

"The Prosecutor requests the Trial Chamber to dismiss the defence motion in its entirety or in the alternative, to maintain the confidentiality of plea agreement until the acceptance of Bagaragaza's guilty plea in an open court,'' responded Senior Trial Attorney, Tanzanian Wallace Kapaya ,in his written submission dated 17 June and posted to the UN web site.

The hearing of the guilty-plea motion has been scheduled for 4 July.

Bagaragaza was transferred in mid May back to Arusha from the Hague, The Netherlands, following revocation of an application by the ICTR Prosecutor for referral of the case because the Dutch courts do not have any jurisdiction in trying such a case.

Bagaragaza, on 16 August 2005, surrendered to the Tribunal in Arusha and was charged with four counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

On 18 August 2005, the accused was transferred to the Special UN Detention Facility (UNDF) of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) following a request by the ICTR Prosecutor to grant the transfer for security reasons.

This was followed by two attempts by the Prosecutor to transfer Bagaragaza's case to Norway and to The Netherlands.

In the case of Norway, the Trial Chamber, relying on the submissions by the Norwegian Prosecutor, found that Oslo did not provide for the crime of genocide, which was alleged in the Indictment, and therefore denied the application.

When the Prosecution renewed its request for referral to The Netherlands, it was supported by a statement of the Dutch prosecutor that the Netherlands had jurisdiction to try the case. However, The Hague District Court afterwards stated that the Dutch Courts do not also have any jurisdiction in trying such cases.

Bagaragaza, a close relation of the former President Juvenal Habyarimana, is accused of having contributed to create, finance, train and arm the Interahamwe militia, the main armed faction of the1994 genocide.

Bagaragaza, if his guilty plea is accepted by the Chamber, will be the ninth defendant of the ICTR to recognize their guilt in the 1994 genocide.

Except for the former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, all the persons who have pleaded guilty have benefited from a substantial reduction in their sentences.

One of them, the former town councillor Vincent Rutaganira, was released from prison at the beginning of March after having served his six years; the shortest sentenced ever delivered by the ICTR.

Headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania, the ICTR has delivered so far, 30 convictions and 5 acquittals.


© Hirondelle News Agency