Arusha, October 25, 2011 (FH) - For the first time ever, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has granted early release to one of its convicts, Michel Bagaragaza, who has served three-quarters of an eight year sentence for complicity to commit genocide.

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Under a court order issued Monday by ICTR president Judge Khalida Rachid Khan, the former head of the Rwandan Tea Authority is to be released on December 1, 2011 from the prison in Sweden where he is currently jailed. Judge Khan directed the ICTR Registry to inform the Rwandan and Swedish authorities about the order as soon as possible.

Judge Khan based her decision on jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) regarding release after three-quarters of a sentence served; on the fact that Bagaragaza confessed to crimes and expressed remorse; and on his good behaviour in jail as attested by the Swedish prison authorities.

Bagaragaza surrendered himself to the ICTR on August 15, 2005 and pleaded guilty to complicity to commit genocide. He confessed to stocking arms used during the genocide at the Rubaya tea factory in Gisenyi prefecture (northern Rwanda). He also said he gave money, arms and the use of tea factory vehicles to Interahamwe militia who were massacring Tutsis, out of fears for the safety of himself and his family.

On November 17, 2009, the ICTR found Bagaragaza guilty and sentenced him to eight years in jail  with credit for the time already served in the ICTR Detention Facility since 2005. He was sent to Sweden in July 2010 to complete his sentence.

In the past, the ICTR has always refused requests for early release of its convicts. In April 2009, Italy unilaterally released Italo-Belgian ICTR convict Georges Ruggiu, in violation of the ICTR Statute. Ruggiu also pleaded guilty before the ICTR. He is the only non-Rwandan to have been tried by the Tribunal.


© Hirondelle News Agency