Arusha, 22 May 2009 (FH) - The Prosecutor General of Rwanda, Martin Ngoga, affirmed in an exclusive with  Hirondelle Agency that his country had cleared the last obstacles to the transfer to Rwandan courts of cases from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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The ICTR judges, who were not satisfied with witnesses' protection and feared that the defendants would be sentenced to life in prison in solitary confinement, had rejected the motions from the Prosecutor, Hassan Bubacar Jallow,  aiming at transferring five defendants to Rwandan justice.

Ngoga assured, after a meeting with Jallow on Thursday at the headquarters of the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania, that all the legal amendments necessary to conform to the requirements of the judges were completed and that all that remained was to promulgate them in very soon.

Jallow has repeatedly announced his intention to file new motions for transfers to Rwanda, if the necessary judges' requirements were met by Kigali.

One of the two texts on standby for promulgation defines the conditions for execution of "life imprisonment with special provisions", the maximum sentence in Rwanda, after the abolition of capital punishment in 2007.

Contrary to what was reported by the media, Ngoga clarified that persons sentenced to life imprisonment with special provisions would not be confined in isolation. They will be able to receive visitors, but less often than others prisoners.

The Rwandan Prosecutor General considered that those whole spoke of solitary confinement jumped too quickly to conclusions about it, especially on the law which abolished capital punishment provided that the conditions for the execution of life imprisonment with special provisions would be defined later on.

These legal amendments also insist on the immunity of the witnesses and the defence teams, he elaborated.

Nobody could be prosecuted for the content of their testimony whatever it was, explained Ngoga.

In addition, he said, a protection unit for the witnesses was created at the Supreme Court.

He also announced the creation of facilities allowing for testimonies via videoconference for witnesses who would not have time or the will to go to Rwanda.

"Rwanda has gone beyond the conditions requested by the ICTR judges", stated Ngoga.

Ngoga drew attention to ‘the negative impact' of the ICTR's refusal to transfer cases to Rwandan justice, giving example of some countries in the West which have based themselves on the decisions of ICTR to refuse to extradite to Rwanda persons accused of genocide residing on their territories.

He concluded by underscoring that the transfer of defendants to Rwandan justice would reduce the burden of the ICTR, which must finish this year its first instance trials, but further, it would contribute to put an end to culture of impunity.


© Hirondelle News Agency