Global Policy Forum

UN Genocide Court Finds No Home For 4 Acquitted


By George Obulutsa

October 27, 2006

A U.N. court trying suspects in Rwanda's 1994 genocide has been forced to keep four acquitted defendants in jail because they found no countries willing to accept them, a court official said on Friday. The Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has convicted 26 people and acquitted five since its first trial in 1997. Those cleared cannot return to Rwanda or stay in Tanzania, which hosts the tribunal.

Everard O'Donnell, the court's acting deputy registrar, said one of those acquitted had found a country to settle in, but the court could not find homes for the remaining four. "When we acquit people we don't seem to find the same enthusiastic assistance from the international community," O'Donnell said.

The court raised the matter two weeks ago at the U.N. general assembly, the lawyer said. "What happens when the tribunal closes? We have them sitting there, marooned in Arusha, with nowhere to go, no status, not even as refugees."

Two of those unable to find a new home are Andre Ntagerura, a former transport and communications minister, and Emmanuel Bagambiki, a former senior government official in Cyangugu. Ntagerura was arrested in Cameroon in 1996 and Bagambiki in Togo in 1998. The two were acquitted in 2004 after the court said the prosecution had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that they were involved in the killings, in which 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus died at the hands of Hutu extremists.

In early 2006, an appeals court upheld the acquittal after the prosecutor sought a re-trial. The others who have been cleared of wrongdoing are former Education Minister Andre Rwamakuba and former mayors Jean Mpambara and Ignace Bagilishema.

O'Donnell said that for security reasons he could not divulge which of the three had been resettled, or where. "Somehow, the fact that they have been indicted haunts them for the rest of their existence. You can't get more innocent than seven or eight judges telling the world that they are innocent." The court has indicted more than 80 people for genocide-related crimes since it was set up in 1994. It has until the end of 2008 to complete its cases, and until 2010 to hear appeals. The court plans to transfer the backlog of cases not tried by the end of 2008 to countries that do not impose the death sentence and can assure defendants a fair trial.

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