Kigali unhappy with ICTR over convicts

Friday July 13 2012

Prisoners at a Rwanda Prison. In 2010, Rwanda unveiled a state-of-art prison facility in the south, in the hope that it would persuade the UN to send to Rwanda some convicts at the Arusha-based tribunal to serve their sentences. Photo/Cyril Ndegeya

Kigali has termed the decision by the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda to transfer four high profile convicts to Mali to serve their remaining sentences as “misguided and wrong.”

Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said that the decision by the Arusha-based UN tribunal to transfer Col Theoneste Bagosora, Yusuf Munyakazi, Tharcise Renzaho and Dominique Ntawukulilyayo to the West African country is one the government does not approve of.

Col Bagosora, considered the main architect of the genocide; Munyakazi, a prominent businessman at the time of the genocide; Renzaho, a former mayor of Kigali City and Ntawukulilyayo, a former deputy mayor of Gisagara, in the south, were sent to Mali last week.

The decision to send the four men to the West African country currently experiencing political and civil unrest irked Kigali, which for many years has been readying itself to receive the convicts from Arusha afters years of request for transfers.

“Political unrest in Mali aside, for us the whole idea of transferring convicts elsewhere than Rwanda is misguided. We have said this from the beginning.

“Rwanda has what it takes to hold these convicts rather than sending them off to a country where even security cannot be guaranteed,” Mr Ngoga said.


The Prosecutor General pointed out that it is irresponsible for ICTR to take such a risky decision, when Rwanda is ready to hold convicts under standards approved by the United Nations.

In 2010, Rwanda unveiled a state-of-art prison facility in the south, in the hope that it would persuade the UN to send to Rwanda some convicts at the Arusha-based tribunal to serve their sentences. Mpanga Prison, located in Nyanza district, holds Sierra Leonean convicts.

READ: Lavish life of a war criminal inside a Rwandan jail

Despite the decision by the International Criminal Tribunal of Sierra Leone to transfer convicts to Rwanda, the ICTR is still not persuaded by Rwanda’s requests, instead preferring to send its convicts to Mali and Benin.

Col Bagosora, a former director of cabinet in the Ministry of Defence and a member of “Akazu” —a group of close allies of former president Juvenal Habyarimana — is serving 35 years in prison following his appeal against a life sentence handed to him by the ICTR lower chamber.

Rwanda has not had a single convict successfully transferred to Kigali; instead, the ICTR has transferred case files of four fugitives still on the run, as well one detainee, Jean Uwikindi, to be tried in Rwanda.

READ: ICTR transfers genocide suspect Uwinkindi to Rwanda‎

The tribunal has handed over the files of Bernard Munyagishari, Fulgence Kayishema, Charles Sikuwabo, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, Phénéas Munyarugarama and Aloys Ndimbati, all yet to be arrested.

However, ICTR’s failure to send convicts to Rwanda is one that has rubbed Kigali the wrong way, though the Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama says that “Rwanda is not too desperate to have the convicts” but it would be appropriate, if they were sent home.

“Of course, everyone would like to see these convicts serve their sentences where they committed the crimes and they would also have the chance to be visited by their families as a bonus, but it is up to the tribunal to decide where the convicts can serve their sentences,” Mr Karugarama told Rwanda Today.

The minister said that despite Rwanda entering into an agreement with ICTR to see convicts transferred to Rwanda, not a single person has been sent to Rwanda. As it is, ICTR is still stuck with convicts who are yet to get a place to serve their sentence.

A few days before Col Bagosora and crew were sent to Mali’s Koulikoro prison, the UN Tribunal had also sent Aloys Ntabakuze, Ildephonse Hategekimana, Gaspard Kanyarukiga and Callixte Kalimanzira to Benin to serve their sentences there.

However, the tribunal is still stuck with convicts who have completed their sentences in the two West African countries, including Samuel Imanishimwe, who was serving a 12- year sentence in Mali, and Juvénal Rugambarara, who completed an 11 year sentence in Benin.

The two are yet to find countries to absorb them but Rwanda says that had they served their sentences in Rwanda, they would have joined their families after serving their time without any problem.

The recent transfers mean that 14 convicts are serving their sentences in Benin, while another 19 are serving theirs in Mali.

Back in Rwanda, genocide survivors were not impressed by the decision, blaming the UN for ignoring their plight in what they say is a move to block justice.

ALSO READ: Kigali wants ICTR genocide archives

“It is equivalent to taking these guys on a holiday. There is no doubt that they should have served their sentences before the people they committed atrocities against.”

“It is better if they are brought home; that way, survivors would feel a sense of vindication and justice accomplished,” said Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of Ibuka, the umbrella body of genocide survivors.