Arusha's hard prison regime

07 November 2005 by Thierry Cruvellier

On May 12, 2005, the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) discreetly handed down two decisions that illustrate an important difference between the UN tribunal in Arusha and The Hague-based tribunal that is responsible for trying cases of crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. At the beginning of December 2004 the first motions for early release from persons convicted by the ICTR were brought before Judge Erik Mose. The two motions were filed by men who had pleaded guilty and cooperated with the prosecutor's office on an ongoing basis as informants or witnesses. Both motions were denied.

The first of these two convicts was Omar Serushago, former militia leader during the 1994 genocide. He confessed to having directly murdered four people and ordered the death of thirty-three others. However, he also helped the prosecution arrest some of the accused and has testified against several of them. Serushago was convicted for genocide, sentenced to fifteen years in prison and has been incarcerated since June 1998. Thus he had not served even half of his sentence when the President of the tribunal ruled on the motion for early release.

The second was Georges Ruggiu, the former Italian-Belgian radio presenter at the notorious Radio des mille collines who was found guilty of incitement to commit genocide and then served as a prosecution witness testifying against his Rwandan friends. Ruggiu, who had been in detention since July 1997, was given 12 years in prison. At the time when the Norwegian judge heard the motions for early release, he had served nearly two thirds of his sentence.

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