Arusha, April 12, 2012 (FH) –The lawyer for genocide-accused Bernard Munyagishari Thursday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that it had a responsibility to try his client and that Munyagishari would not get a fair trial if he were transferred to Rwanda. He was speaking during an oral hearing of a prosecution request for Munyagishari's transfer to Rwanda.

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“Munyagishari is ready to be tried by international judges,” the defendant’s lead counsel Philippe Mariceau told a Referral Chamber presided by Judge Lee Muthoga. “Given his functions and allegations made against him in the indictment, he is obviously not someone of low rank. Munyagishari cannot be subjected to transfer.”

Mariceau argued that according to UN Security Council Resolutions 1503 and 1534 the ICTR had a duty to try Munyagishari as one of “the most senior leaders suspected of being most responsible for crimes”.

According to the French lawyer, Munyagishari was in 1994 Secretary of the former ruling party MRND and President of the Interahamwe in Gisenyi prefecture, northwest Rwanda. He is charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide or, in the alternative, complicity in genocide, murder and rape as crimes against humanity.

Mariceau further submitted that the accused would not receive a fair trial in Rwanda, as the presumption of innocence was not guaranteed.

“The Resolution 1534 does not impose a barrier but encourages referrals,” Chief of Appeals in the office of the Prosecutor, James Arguin, responded. He cited the cases of Laurent Bucyibaruta and Wenceslas Munyeshyaka which the ICTR referred to France for trial in 2007, after the adoption of the Resolutions.

The prosecution also argued that Munyagishari would receive a fair trial if transferred because Rwanda has made material changes in its laws and expressed readiness to meet international standards.

As the ICTR strives to meet completion targets it has granted three other applications for referral of cases to Rwanda for trial. The cases involve Pastor Jean Uwinkindi, who is detained at the ICTR, and two former officials, Fulgence Kayishema and Charles Sikubwabo, who are still on the run.

Munyagishari was arrested on May 25, 2011 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha, Tanzania, on June 14, 2011. He made his initial appearance before the Tribunal on June 20, 2011 and pleaded not guilty to the charges.