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Imminent transfer of witnesses detained in Rwanda

The Rwandan Government agreed, on 30 October, to the transfer of three persons detained in Rwandan prisons, so that they may appear as witnesses in defence of Jean-Paul Akayesu, a dignitary in the former Rwandan regime, whose trial is currently under way in Arusha, Tanzania.

“This is a highly symbolic decision which confirms the quality of the cooperation between the Rwandan Government and the Tribunal", declared Judge Laïty Kama, a Senegalese national, who is the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

It is the first time that such a decision has been made, since the establishment in November 1994 of the ICTR, whose mandate is to prosecute persons responsible for genocide and serious violations of international humanitarian law committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994. This decision was made pursuant to Rule 90 bis of the ICTR Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which authorizes the transfer and appearance of any person detained by a national court, so that person can testify before the International Criminal Tribunal.

These three persons currently detained in the prison in Taba commune of which Jean-Paul Akayesu was the Bourgrnestre during the events of 1994 will be transferred from Kigali to Arusha, Tanzania, the seat of the ICTR. Their transfer is imminent and will probably take place some time this week. They were requested as witnesses by the counsel for the accused, Mr. Nicolas Tiangaye (Central African Republic).

After noting that the conditions required to apply Rule 90 bis of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence had been met, and particularly in light of the Rwandan Government's agreement, the Tribunal, sitting on 31 October, granted the Defence request. It consequently ordered the Registrar to organize the transfer of the three persons in question to the ICTR Detention Facilities.

"The speed with which the Rwandan authorities acceded to this request shows", said the ICTR Registrar, , Dr. Agwu U. Okali, a Nigerian national "the good cooperation between the crimina1 institution and the Rwandan leaders, particularly since the success of Operation 'NAKI' (Nairobi-Kigali), launched last July by the Tribunal to arrest top-level figures suspected of havmg played a key role in the 1994 genocide".

Jean-Paul Akayesu is one of the 21 persons arrested and detained in the ICTR Detention Facilities. The Akayesu trial, which began on 9 January 1997, was the first to open before the ICTR. The trial is being conducted at the same time as the trials of Georges Anderson Rutaganda, Obed Ruzindana and Clement Kayishema. All of them are accused of having participated in the 1994 genocide, which is believed to have caused the death of more than 500,000 people.

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