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Bagaragaza Pleads Guilty

Michael Bagaragaza, former Director General of the office controlling the Rwandan tea industry during the period of the genocide, today entered a plea of guilty to the count of complicity in genocide as contained in an amended indictment. The Prosecutor had presented the new indictment together with the plea agreement. The Chamber scheduled that hearing of character witnesses presented by the Defence in preparation of the sentencing judgement be held from 2 November 2009.

The plea agreement was accepted by Trial Chamber III, composed of Judges Vagn Joensen, presiding, Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov and Gberdao Gustave Kam, after the Chamber was satisfied that the accused entered the guilty plea voluntarily and in an informed and unequivocal manner. Bagaragaza, who, on 16 August 2005, surrendered to the Tribunal in Arusha was initially charged with four counts of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide and violations of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and of Additional Protocol II of 1977. On 18 August 2005, the accused was transferred to the Detention Unit of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia following a request by the ICTR Prosecutor to grant the transfer for security reasons.

This was followed by two attempts by the Prosecutor to transfer Bagaragaza’s case to the Kingdom of Norway and to The Netherlands. In the case of the Kingdom of Norway, the Trial Chamber, relying on the submissions by the Norwegian Prosecutor, found that Norwegian criminal law did not provide for the crime of genocide, which was alleged in the Indictment, and therefore denied the application. When the Prosecution renewed its request for referral to The Netherlands, it was supported by a statement of the Dutch prosecutor that The Netherlands had jurisdiction to try the case. However, in a similar case involving another Rwandan, The Hague District Court afterwards stated that the Dutch Courts do not have any jurisdiction in trying such a case.

As a result, the Dutch Prosecutor informed the ICTR Prosecutor who then requested the revocation of the referral. On 17 August 2007, the referral order was revoked and the accused was transferred on 20 May 2008 back to Arusha.

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