Global Policy Forum

Genocide Suspects End Hunger Strike


By Sukhdev Chhatbar

Daily News
October 12, 2007

A three-day hunger strike by genocide suspects at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has been called off, according to Spokesman Mr Roland Amoussouga. The strike followed a motion filed by the Prosecutor last month to transfer three suspects currently in detention in Arusha to stand trial in Rwanda. A decision was yet to be made on the request.

Mr Amoussouga told reporters yesterday that the strike was called off on Wednesday evening at 6.30pm after the ICTR President, Judge Charles Dennis Byron, responded to a protest letter of the detainees by saying they would be given opportunity to make their case before a decision was made regarding the transfers. "All suspects who went on strike are healthy..Nothing unusual to be noted," Mr Amoussouga said, adding that the general atmosphere was peaceful and the detainees were following routine schedule. Forty out 55 detainees staged the hunger strike.

Mr Gershom Otachi, Vice-President of the Association of Defence Attorneys at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ADAD-ICTR), said that the strike demonstrated "solidarity of the detainees over the transfers, especially the choice of Kigali when there is seating government led by people suspected to be the master-minds of the killings." He told reporters that the UN court would be making a "historical mistake and crime by sending the suspects to a country which has a suspect judiciary, including a suspect leadership."

On September 7, the ICTR prosecutor filed a motion to request transfers of detainees-- Yusuf Munyakazi, an ex-businessman and former leader of Bugarama pro-Hutu militia MRND in Cyangugu; Idelphonse Hategekimina, a former commander of Ngoma camp and; Gaspard Kanyarukiga, a former businessman in Kigali . They all have pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Prof. Erlinder added that the current Rwandan regime under Paul Kagame and his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) have been accused of triggering the killings and a number of requests have been made to bring them for trial at the UN court in Arusha but to no avail.

The prosecution says that the transfers are aimed at meeting the exit deadline of December 2008 set by the UN Security Council. In a protest letter, the suspects have asked the ICTR president and the judges of UN tribunal "to confirm the independence of the ICTR" by refusing any transfer to Rwanda . The UN tribunal has so far rendered 33 judgements, including five acquittals since its establishment in November, 1994. Trials are currently underway for 24 accused persons. More than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the April-June, 1994 massacres following the downing of the plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana by unknown assailants, near the capital, Kigali . Mr Habyarimana was returning from a peace meeting in Dar es Salaam. Also killed in the plane was Burundi 's President, Cyprian Ntaryamira.

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