Arusha, October 27, 2011 (FH) - The former head of the Rwandan Tea Authority, Michel Bagaragaza, who was transferred from Arusha to Sweden last July, is the second convict of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to be sent to Europe to serve the remainder of his sentence.

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Bagaragaza, a relative with former President Juvenal Habyarimana, was sentenced on November 5, 2009, to 8 years in jail by the ICTR after pleading guilty for his role in the 1994 genocide.

According to the ICTR spokesman Roland Amoussouga, he was secretly transferred from Arusha to a Swedish jail on July 19, 2010. Sweden is amongst countries, which have signed with the UN an Agreement on enforcement of Tribunal's sentences.

The first convict to be sent to Europe was Georges Ruggiu, the only non-Rwandan ever charged by the ICTR.

A former anchorman of the extremist radio RTLM, an Italian-Belgian citizen, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison on June 1, 2000, after pleading guilty of direct and public incitement to commit genocide and persecution.

He was then isolated from other detainees in the UN Detention facility, as he feared for his security after having testified against other accused.

In February 2008, he was finally transferred to Italy, a country which had also signed the Agreement on the enforcement of ICTR's sentences. Georges Ruggiu is currently a free man. He was granted an early release from an Italian jail on April 21, 2009.

His release violated the statute of the Tribunal. According to Article 27 of the Statute, only the President of the ICTR may decide on the early release of those convicted by the UN tribunal, no matter where the sentence is being served.

"If, pursuant to the applicable law of the State in which the convicted person is imprisoned, he or she is eligible for pardon or commutation of sentence, the State concerned shall notify the International Tribunal for Rwanda accordingly.

"There shall only be pardon or commutation of sentence if the President of the International Tribunal for Rwanda, in consultation with the judges, so decides on the basis of the interests of justice and the general principles of law." reads Article 27.

Michel Bagaragaza's case has at least two similarities with Ruggiu's. First, he pleaded guilty, notably admitting he had given beer and money to Interahamwe militiamen. Second, he implicated other accused, including Protais Zigiranyirazo, a brother-in-law of Juvénal Habyarimana, who was acquitted on appeal on November 2009.

Fearing for his security, Bagaragaza was, just like Ruggiu, isolated from other famous ICTR detainees whom he used to mix with in upscale Kigali parties before the 1994 genocide. From his new jail, Bagaragaza, who still has more than 2 years to serve, will certainly try to be granted an early release, using Ruggiu case as a legal precedent.   


© Hirondelle News Agency