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Rwanda genocide tribunal begins trial of former mayor

[JURIST] The trial of Rwandan genocide suspect Jean-Baptiste Gatete [Trial Watch profile; case materials] began [press release] Tuesday with opening statements from the prosecution and defense before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website]. Gatete, the former Mayor of Murambi Commune in Byumba prefecture, is charged [indictment, PDF] with six counts of genocide including complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity. As leader of the Interahamwe, a Hutu paramilitary group, Gatete is thought to be responsible for the massacre of 6,000 Tutsis who had taken refuge in Kiziguro and Mukarange Churches, as well as ordering the widespread rape of women in the parishes. Gatete was arrested [UN News Centre report] in the Republic of Congo in September 2002 and was transferred by Congolese authorities to the United Nations detention facility in Arusha, Tanzania.

In accordance with the completion strategy [text, PDF] of the ICTR, the prosecution requested to transfer Gatete to the national jurisdiction of Rwanda, but the request was denied in November 2008. The ICTR has received criticism for its refusal to transfer cases to Rwanda. Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga addressed [press release] the UN Security Council [official website] in June stating that the ICTR's decision not to transfer pending cases to Rwandan jurisdiction, including Gatete, undermines his country's judicial reforms and hinders national reconciliation. Emphasizing that Rwanda has continued to cooperate with the tribunal, Ngoga expressed the country's desire to have the cases transferred to Rwandan jurisdiction at the completion of the ICTR's mandate in 2010, a plan discussed [JURIST report] by UN Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs Pamela O'Brien [official profile] in March.

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