Arusha, January 11, 2012 (FH) - Former Rwandan Tea Authority boss Michel Bagaragaza is still seeking legal status in Sweden after his early release from jail there on December 1.  Bagaragaza has requested the right to stay in Sweden, but his request is still pending examination by the Swedish authorities, according to ICTR spokesman Roland Amoussouga.

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Sweden is one of the countries which agreed to take ICTR convicts in its jails. Bagaragaza is the first person to be released early by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), after serving two-thirds of an eight year sentence for complicity to commit genocide.

Presenting a report to the UN Security Council on December 7, Tribunal President Khalida Rachid Khan appealed to UN member states to take in ICTR acquitted persons and convicts who have served their sentence.

There are five acquitted persons still being lodged in a "safe house" in Arusha at the ICTR's expense because they have not yet found a host country. They are Protais Zigiranyirazo, brother in-law of the former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana; former ministers André Ntagerura (Transport), Casimir Bizimungu (Health) and Jérôme Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs); and the former Rwandan military officer General Gratien Kabiligi. Also in the safe house are Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, whose 15-year sentence was more than time served in ICTR detention; and General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, whose sentence was equal to time served but who is still still awaiting the outcome of the Prosecutor's appeal.

"Sweden is unlikely to expel Bagaragaza any more than Tanzania is likely to expel the others, since it had agreed to take him into one of its prisons," a source at the ICTR Registry told Hirondelle. "But finding host countries for the Arusha Seven or getting a more secure status for Bagaragaza in Sweden remains very difficult.

"Western coutnries are making it harder and harder for immigrants, even so-called normal ones. I say that because unfortunately some people still view acquitted persons as guilty of genocide. And let's not forget that some countries may not want to upset the Rwandan 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.

The ICTR agreed to his early release for a number of reasons, including the fact that he confessed to his crimes and expressed remorse, and his good behaviour in the Swedish prison.


© Hirondelle News Agency