[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday transferred the case [press release] of former Rwandan pastor Jean-Bosco Uwinkindi [Hague Justice profile; case materials] to the Republic of Rwanda to be tried in the Rwandan national court system under Rule 11 bis, which authorizes the transfer of cases to appropriate national jurisdictions. Though the ICTR has never referred a case to a Rwanda court, the Referral Chamber determined that Rwanda was capable of accepting and prosecuting Uwinkindi’s case:
Rwanda had made material changes in its laws and had indicated its capacity and willingness to prosecute cases referred by the ICTR adhering to internationally recognised fair trial standards enshrined in the ICTR Statute and other human rights instruments. In particular, the Chamber found that the issues which concerned previous Referral Chambers, namely the availability of witnesses and their protection, had been addressed to some degree in the intervening period.
As a precuationary measure, the Referral Chamber requested that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) [official website] be appointed to oversee the trial and present any issues to the ICTR President as they arise. Uwinkindi pleaded not guilty [press release] in July 2010 to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity relating to the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Uwinkindi was indicted [indictment, PDF] by the ICTR in 2001 and has been charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity. The indictment alleges that Uwinkindi collaborated with the extremist National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) party in order to kill Tutsis. He allegedly led a group of Hutus to look for and kill a group of Tutsi settlers and conspired with members of the militia to kill Tutsis who sought protection in the church where he was the pastor. According to the indictment, approximately 2,000 bodies were found near the church where the violence occurred. Uwinkindi had been one of the ICTR’s most wanted suspects, with a $5 million reward being offered [BBC report] for information leading to his capture. He was apprehended [JURIST report] by Ugandan authorities and transferred to the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania.
Former Chief Prosecutor of the ICTR Hassan Bubacar Jallow [JURIST news archive] filed new applications [press release; JURIST report] in November 2010 for the referral of three cases for trial in Rwanda, including those of Uwinkindi, Fulgence Kayishema [case materials; JURIST report] and Charles Sikubwabo [case materials]. In September 2010, the ICTR transferred [JURIST report] the cases of 25 suspects to Rwandan authorities. The suspects, who have been investigated but not yet indicted by the ICTR, are believed to be in hiding abroad. The transfers are a part of the strategy intended to finish [completion strategy text, PDF] the court’s trial work by 2011. Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga told the UN Security Council last year that the decisions by the ICTR not to transfer pending cases to Rwandan jurisdiction, including genocide suspects Jean-Baptiste Gatete and Yussuf Munyakazi [case materials] undermines judicial reforms [JURIST report] and hinders national reconciliation. JURIST Guest Columnist and former Managing Editor Ingrid Burke, who has personal experience at the ICTR, argues that some cases ought to be referred to Rwandan courts [JURIST op-ed], suggesting that doing so “is in the best interest of both the Rwandan judiciary’s stability and the benefit of international criminal law in the future.”