Two years on, Uwinkindi’s trial is yet to begin in Kigali

30 April 2014 by Clive Muhenga, Arusha (Tanzania)

After many postponements, the trial of Pentecostal Pastor Jean Uwinkindi – the first accused to be handed over to Kigali by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) – is now set to begin on 14 May. The long delays have brought into focus the many challenges in bringing transferred cases before Rwandan courts. 

Pastor Uwinkindi was flown into Kigali on 19 April 2012, after a long legal battle against his transfer from the ICTR, based in neighbouring Tanzania. It was seen as a milestone decision, coming after ICTR judges had previously dismissed the first five motions for referral of cases to Rwanda. Charged at the ICTR with genocide and extermination, the 63-year-old pastor, who used to run a rural parish in the eastern region of Bugesera, is accused of being one of the main organizers of massacres of Tutsi members of his parish in 1994. 

Despite numerous appearances during the last two years before three judges of the Kigali High Court, his trial has not yet begun. The case was first delayed by translation problems. The priest, who understands neither French nor English, asked for a Kinyarwanda version of the entire ICTR file. Then came the issue of human and financial resources for the defence team. Since the accused is being considered as indigent – unable to pay for his defence – it has to be entirely covered by the government of Rwanda.  

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