Bagaragaza: mixed fortune

11 November 2009 by Thierry Cruvellier

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) sentenced a former close associate of the Habyarimana regime to eight years in prison last week, after he pleaded guilty to complicity in genocide. 

Michel Bagaragaza had cooperated with the ICTR prosecutor since 2002 in the hope of having the case heard before a court in Europe where he might receive a more favourable outcome. However, although the tribunal agreed to move his case to a European country, it was prevented from doing so.

In February 2006, in order to expedite the case, the prosecutor asked for Bagaragaza to be tried in Norway where he would face a maximum sentence of twenty years imprisonment if he were found guilty. Due importance would be given to his confession, and clear rules on early release would apply. However, the ICTR judges refused Bagaragaza’s transfer to Norway because under Norwegian law he couldn’t be prosecuted for crimes of genocide committed in 1994. It had been hoped that the Netherlands would then step in. But in July 2007, a Dutch court ruled that it too had no jurisdiction over crimes of genocide committed before 2003. Three weeks later, the ICTR had to rescind its order to transfer Bagaragaza to The Hague.

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