Arusha, 1 July 2009 (FH) - Nine persons, convicted by the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for their roles in the 1994 genocide, were secretly transferred on Saturday to Benin to serve their sentences under the terms of an agreement signed with the United Nations, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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"The transfer was carried out by the Tribunal on Saturday 27 June", a well-placed Tribunal source disclosed to Hirondelle.

However, later when asked over the issue, the ICTR Spokesperson, Roland Amoussouga, confirmed the information, adding that it was the first transfers of ICTR convicts to Benin.

Among prisoners sent to the West African country, included the former Minister for Finance, Emmanuel Ndindabahizi; Priest Athanase Seromba; and one of the founders of the infamous Radio Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza. Others are: Georges Rutaganda (ex-businessman and vice chairman of Interahamwe), Gerard Ntakurutimana (medical doctor), Juvenal Kajelijeli (ex-Mukingo Mayor), Aloys Simba (ex-Colonel of Army), Juvenal Rugambarara (ex-Bicumbi Mayor) and Francois Karera (ex-Governor Kigali-Rural).

Mali, already hosts 15 prisoners, including former Interim Prime Minister during the genocide, Jean Kambanda, who pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to life jail.

According to Article 26 of Statute of the Tribunal, imprisonment shall be served in Rwanda or any of the States on a list of States which have indicated to the UN Security Council their willingness to accept convicted persons.

However, Kigali has always maintained that, according to this text, the first destination for the convicts should be Rwanda.

A  UN-standards prison facility has been built in the south of Rwanda to accommodate the ICTR convicts but no one has yet been sent there.

Apart from Mali and Benin, five other countries--- Swaziland, France, Sweden, Italy and Rwanda-- have signed an agreement with the UN on the enforcement of sentences.

One convict- Belgian-Italian former journalist with RTLM Georges Ruggiu and the only non-Rwandan implicated in the genocide, served for about a year's sentence in Italy.


© Hirondelle News Agency