Arusha, January 24, 2012 (FH) - Kigali has hailed Canada's deportation of Rwandan scholar Leon Mugesera and the expected transfer of a first genocide suspect from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as signs of progress in the Rwandan justice system. Mugesera arrived in the Rwandan capital on Tuesday after finally losing a 16-year battle against extradition, while the ICTR is expected to transfer Pastor Jean Uwinkindi not later than February 23 to face justice in Rwanda. Another transfer could follow, as part of the ICTR's strategy to complete all its first-instance trials by the end of June.
For Rwanda's Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo "it is the culmination of the progress made in the sector of the judiciary since the end of the genocide". And Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga says Rwanda is ready. "The task ahead is one for which we are well prepared -- a fair and transparent trial. The new era is unfolding, and sooner rather than later Rwandans will witness what they have longed for -- to see trials taking place where genocide was committed."
The transfers come after the Canadian judiciary and ICTR were satisfied with judicial progress made in Rwanda and its assurances that transferred genocide suspects would receive fair trial in accordance with international standards.
Mugesera, who is accused of inciting genocide in a 1992 speech, fled to Canada in 1993. His first argument in his battle against deportation was that he would face the death penalty if sent back to Rwanda. However in 2007, Rwanda abolished the death penalty even for genocide convicts. Mugesera came up with a fresh argument that he risked being tortured, but this time he failed to convince the Canadian judiciary.
The ICTR approved Uwinkindi's transfer in June 2011, and the decision was confirmed in December by its Appeals Chamber. It had previously refused prosecutors' requests for transfers of detainees to Rwanda on grounds their rights might not be respected.
The ICTR President ruled on January 20 that Uwinkindi would be transferred to Rwanda within 30 days of the Trial Chamber accepting an amended indictment. The Chamber approved the new indictment three days later.
Unlike Mugesera, Uwinkindi's case after transfer to Rwanda is to be monitored by the international community. The African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) has agreed to conduct the monitoring on behalf of the ICTR and with ICTR funding. Details of the agreement are still under negotiation. According to the ICTR's Rules of Procedure and Evidence, the Tribunal has the right to revoke the transfer in case of violation of Uwinkindi's defence rights.