Pastor Jean Uwinkindi on Thursday became the first genocide suspect to be transferred by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to Kigali to face trial before the High Court of his native country.
The ICTR had turned down previous such requests on grounds that the accused might not get a fair trial in Rwanda. But although it authorised this transfer, its decision provides for a monitoring mechanism. The mechanism is not yet fully in place and the case will put it to the test.
Uwinkindi has waged a battle trying to stop his transfer, arguing that the rights of the defence are not guaranteed in Rwanda. In the last attempt his lawyers last week introduced a motion citing recent developments in the case of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire before the High Court in Kigali. She walked out of her trial on April 16 to protest what she called “systematic violation of her rights.”
But the Appeals Chamber threw out Uwinkindi’s motion on grounds that, unlike other trials in Rwanda, his case would benefit from a “robust monitoring mechanism” under the supervision of the ICTR. The judges also stressed that the transfer could be revoked in case of any violation of defence rights.
The ICTR, which is striving to meet completion targets for its work, authorised the transfer in a June 2011 decision, confirmed by the Appeals Chamber in December.
The decision called on the ICTR Registry to hold talks with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) with a view to appointing it as monitor.
However, in February this year, former ICTR president Khalida Rashid Khan stayed Uwinkindi’s transfer and ordered the registrar to look for new monitors after talks with the ACHPR hit difficulties.
Judge Khan cited submissions from the Registrar in which he noted "continued complications in reaching an agreement with the ACHPR", including "difficulties at securing funding and discrepancies between the understanding of the Referral Chamber and the conditions now sought by the ACHPR".
However, on April 5, this year, ICTR new president Judge Vagn Joensen ruled that Uwinkindi should be transferred to Rwanda “within 14 days of the filing of this decision” and instructed the registrar to immediately resume negotiations with the ACHPR.
He also directed the registrar to appoint ICTR legal staff as “interim monitor” until the ACHPR or other organisation was appointed as monitor. The ICTR registrar has now appointed two ICTR staff as interim monitors. They will be based in Kigali.
In its June 28 decision, the Referral Chamber provided eight guidelines requiring the observer, for example, to “monitor on a full-time basis and report to the ICTR president through the registrar on the progress of the referred case in general and on adherence of international fair trial standards with special emphasis on availability and protection of witnesses before, during and after proceedings.”
The observer also has to “monitor detention conditions ensuring that they are in accordance with international standards both during and after the trial and appeal of the accused, if convicted by a competent court.”
Furthermore, the monitor has to identify and report to the president through the registrar any incidents of violations of rules, and in particular, those relating to the protective measures of witnesses ordered by the ICTR.
The Referral Chamber also requested Rwanda to “provide the ACHPR monitors with access to court proceedings, documents, records, persons and locations, including the detention facility where the accused will be housed, throughout the territory of Rwanda as may be needed for the effective conduct of their monitoring.” Rwanda has stressed that the trial for Uwinkindi and other accused that may come from the ICTR and even other states would be fairly conducted, according to international standards.
The ICTR is currently deliberating on a request for the transfer of another detainee, former militiaman Bernard Munyagishari, to Rwanda for trial. He is now the only detainee in its custody still awaiting trial. The ICTR is striving to conclude all its first-instance trials by July, this year.
Meanwhile, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo has arrived in Libya for Gaddafi’s son case.
Ocampo arrived in Tripoli last week, as part of an investigation mission into charges against Saif al-Islam.
He denied going to Libya to make a deal with local authorities on where the trial should be held.
ICC Judges have ruled that Libya had to make arrangements to hand over the suspect, but Tripoli is insisting to try him on its soil. He is wanted by the court for crimes against humanity.
According to the Agency, this week there will be delivery of judgment in the case of former Liberian President Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone on Thursday (April 26) and resumption of trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba before the ICC the same day.
In Bemba’s case, judges are expected to receive testimony from victims. There will also be resumption of special hearings to preserve evidence for most wanted fugitive Féicien Kabuga at the ICTR today.
During the session, it will be a turn for the defence counsel to call its witnesses following the conclusion of prosecution’s testimony on October 28, last year. Special hearings are conducted to preserve evidence for future use if the fugitive were to be arrested.