ICTR recognizes Rwanda judicial improvements but denies case transfer

ICTR recognizes Rwanda judicial improvements but denies case transfer

[JURIST] Prosecutors for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] met [press release] Thursday with Rwandan prosecutor general Martin Ngoga [New Times profile] to discuss the possible future transfer of cases from the ICTR to Rwandan courts. In a decision [text, PDF; HRA report] by the court earlier this week again denying the transfer of genocide suspect Jean-Baptiste Gatete [TrialWatch profile], the ICTR commended Rwanda for taking steps to improve its judicial and penal systems, but said that it still had reservations about transferring cases to the country's courts:

The Chamber concludes that the Republic of Rwanda has made notable progress in improving its judicial system. Its legal framework contains satisfactory provisions concerning jurisdiction and criminalises Jean-Baptiste Gatete’s alleged conduct. The death penalty has been abolished. However, the Chamber is not satisfied that Gatete will receive a fair trial if transferred to Rwanda. First, it is concerned that he will not be able to call witnesses residing outside Rwanda to the extent and in a manner which will ensure a fair trial. Second, it accepts that the Defence will face problems in obtaining witnesses residing in Rwanda because they will be afraid to testify. Third, there is a risk that Gatete, if convicted to life imprisonment there, may risk solitary confinement due to unclear legal provisions in Rwanda.

Later this month, the ICTR will host a forum [briefing, PDF] addressing cooperation between international criminal tribunals and national prosecuting authorities.

In October, the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR also refused [press release] to grant Rwanda's request to have genocide suspect Yussuf Munyakazi [case materials] transferred to the country to face trial. That judgment upheld an earlier decision by the court that Ngoga had criticized [JURIST report] for claiming the Rwandan courts were not independent. In March, the ICTR signed an agreement allowing those convicted by the court to serve their prison sentences [JURIST report] in Rwanda.