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UN May Transfer Some Genocide Cases to Courts in Rwanda - 2004-02-19


The U.N. court trying those accused of masterminding Rwanda's 1994 genocide says it may transfer some of its cases to courts in Rwanda.

A backlog in its caseload and pressure to meet a deadline may cause the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Arusha, Tanzania, to send some suspects back to Rwanda to have their cases heard there.

Since its inception, the U.N. tribunal has rendered judgments on 18 cases of government ministers, journalists, military officials, and other high-profile leaders accused of masterminding and carrying out the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists.

But about 40 suspects are still in custody, awaiting trial. The United Nations has given the court until the end of this year to complete its investigations and until 2008 to finish all trials.

Tribunal officials said they are looking at the possibility of sending back some of the lower-profile cases to Rwanda for trial. Tribunal spokesman Roland Amoussouga told reporters court regulations allow the tribunal to hand back some mid-level cases to Rwanda.

Meanwhile, Rwandan officials have said they are considering releasing several thousand prisoners accused of participating in the genocide if they confess their roles in the genocide.

Rwandan courts are also faced with a massive backlog and overcrowded prisons.

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