"Many people in Rwanda consider this as very ridiculous...I don't know what kind of legacy is the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) trying to leave behind'', said furious Martin Ngoga, Rwanda's Prosecutor General over the phone from Kigali, apparently the decision coming just one year before the UN Court shuts down as directed by the Security Council.
He told Hirondelle Agency that the move was "contextually misplaced" and may jeopardize the UN tribunal's credibility. Rwanda does not allow conjugal visits.
The angry reaction follows disclosure last week that since May ICTR has changed its policy to allow conjugal rights for detained and convicted persons.
The Spokesman of the tribunal, Mr Roland Amoussouga attributed the move as part of efforts to harmonise policy matters with its sister tribunal in the ex-Yugoslavia (ICTY).
There are a total of 56 detainees at the Special UN Detention Facility, including 18 convicted persons awaiting host countries.
According to Mr Amoussouga, the shift had been under consideration since the Chamber's decision in late 2005 to deny convicted Hassan Ngeze, ex-editor of Kangura newspaper, to a right to get married at the ICTR premises (and thereafter conjugal visits).
However, he has cautioned that the conjugal visits must be exercised within set out regulations and any violation would mean automatic denial of such visits.
The tribunal's interpretation was that any detained was presumed innocent unless proven otherwise, adding that any convicted person must only be deprived of the right to move freely as part of the punishment.
The issue of conjugal visits has not been universally settled, explained Mr Amoussouga, underscoring that the UN Court had a pioneering role in spreading some human rights' advancements in terms of right of the defence.
According to ICTR sources, the visitor, among others, may be required to undergo a background check, and the inmate must also be free of any sexually transmitted diseases. As a matter of procedure, both visitor and inmate are searched before and after the visit, to ensure that the visitor has not attempted to smuggle any items in or out of the facility.
The conjugal meetings at the UN detention facility have been allowed for maximum of three hours, and must not disrupt the neighbourhood.
No detainee, the source said, may be allowed to have more than one conjugal meeting within a period of two successive months; except in case of a detainee whose spouse is resident in a distant country, outside Tanzania,
Also in such a case, there will be one conjugal visit in the first week and second meeting during last week of the family visit.
Some countries consider that inmates must not have the privilege of having sexual pleasure, even if that's with a legal spouse while serving the sentence as part of punishment. However, on the other side, human rights' activists consider that even if imprisoned, the right to family bond must not be denied.
Conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia has allowed conjugal visits for years now but countries like England, Scotland and Ireland do not allow conjugal visits . However, home visits, with a greater emphasis on building other links with the outside world to which the prisoner will be returned are allowed.
In Brazil, male prisoners are eligible to be granted conjugal visits for both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, while women's conjugal visits are tightly regulated, if granted at all. Since July 2007, the prison system in Mexico City has begun to allow gay prisoners to have conjugal visits from their partners.
© Hirondelle News Agency