Global Policy Forum

No Death Penalty for Indictees of

Integrated Regional Information Networks
September 13, 2004

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has said he would support abolishing the death penalty for genocide suspects held by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, if the prisoners were to be transferred to Rwandan national jurisdiction. "My position has always been to have these people tried from where they committed the crime; then survivals of the genocide would see justice being delivered," he told reporters on Saturday in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. "If it means doing way with the death penalty, I will support it."

The tribunal's prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, is under pressure to meet the UN Security Council's deadline of ending his investigations in 2004 and completing all trials by 2008. That would require reducing the number of cases. But the death penalty has been a sticking point in transferring cases to Rwanda. The highest sentence a UN tribunal can issue is prison for life.

Relations between Kigali and the tribunal had been strained with the former prosecutor, Carl Del Ponte, expressing her intention to arrest Tutsi army officers aligned with Rwanda's current government. So far, the only officers the tribunal has indicted were members of the former Hutu government, which has been blamed for the genocide.

The tribunal's relations with the government in Kigali seem to have improved since Jallow took over from Ponte in 2003. Jallow told the council in June that he would, early in 2005, be willing to transfer up to 40 suspects of the 1994 genocide. He said some of the prisoners already convicted by the court should serve their sentences in Rwanda. Defense lawyers have protested the proposed transfer to Rwanda's court system, saying their clients would not receive a fair trial.

Since its inception in 1995, the UN tribunal has indicated 81 suspects. Twenty have been convicted and three acquitted. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed four extra judges in September to ease the tribunal's workload.

More Information on International Justice
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