Arusha, June 29, 2011 (FH) - More than two years after refusing to transfer to Rwanda five cases of genocide suspects on grounds that the accused may not receive fair trial, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) issued on June 28 a decision authorizing the transfer of Jean Uwinkindi's case.

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However, the decision is not final as the 60-year old Pentecostal pastor has the right to appeal.

The decision is important as the ICTR refusal to refer cases to Rwanda was so far a decisive argument for western countries to reject Kigali's repeated requests to extradite genocide-suspects living in Europe.

In November 2010, ICTR Chief of the Prosecution Hassan Bubacar Jallow declared that he was now satisfied with Rwanda's legal reforms and then asked for three new transfers, including Jean Uwinkindi's.

The historic ruling issued on June 28 was the result of various submission and discussion presented before the Chamber by several key plays and amici curiae including the government of Rwanda, Human Rights Watch, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the International Criminal Defence Attorney Association, the Kigali Bar Association and ICTR prosecution on the other side.

‘'The Chamber is satisfied that the judges of the Supreme Court and High Court of Rwanda are qualified and experienced and that they have the necessary skills to handle the case at issue (Uwinkindi's trial) if transferred,'' reads part of the 59-pages decision.

‘'The Chamber expressed its solemn hope that the Republic of Rwanda would actualize in practice the commitments it made in its filings about its good faith, capacity and willingness to enforce the highest standards of international justice,'' the ruling states.

One would wonder what has motivated the Chamber to grant this application now as opposed to five other similar requests submitted in the past. The decision elaborates : ‘'The Chamber noted that Rwanda had made material changes in its law and had indicated its capacity and willingness to prosecute cases referred by ICTR adhering to internationally recognized fair trial standards enshrined in the ICTR Statute and other human rights instruments.''

But that notwithstanding  ‘'The Referral Chamber is persuaded to refer this case after receiving assurances that a robust monitoring mechanism provided by ACHPR (African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights) will ensure that any material violation of the fair trial rights of this accused (Uwinkindi) will be brought to the attention of the President of the Tribunal forthwith so that remedial action, including revocation, can be considered by the Tribunal, or if applicable by the Residual Mechanism.' Responsibilities of ACHPR as stipulated by the Chamber include monitoring on full time basis progress of the referred case, detention conditions to ensure that they match with the international standards and indicate in general any violation of the fair trial rights of the accused.

‘'We welcome the decision. The office of the Prosecutor is satisfied. The Chamber agrees with the prosecution that Rwanda is now willing and able to prosecute cases according to the international standards,'' Richard Karegyesa, ICTR Chief of the Prosecution told Hirondelle News Agency on Wednesday.

Hassan Bubacar Jallow announced earlier this month that he was about to request the transfer of five other cases to foreign countries. "Transferring cases to other countries is crucial if we want to meet our deadlines", he said before the UN Security Council.

The pastor is alleged to have committed the offences between April 6 and May 1994 in Kanzenze commune, Kigali Rural prefecture (Central Rwanda).     

He was born in Rutsiro commune, Kibuye prefecture (west Rwanda) in 1951. According to the indictment, he is individually responsible for genocide and extermination because he allegedly planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the preparation or execution of such crimes.

Uwinkindi was arrested on June 30, 2010 in Uganda as he was coming into the country from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and was transferred to the seat of ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania on July 2, 2010.


© Hirondelle News Agency