Amnesty International urged governments on Friday not to send anyone suspected of crimes during Rwanda's 1994 genocide to be tried in the country, saying it has serious concerns about the justice system. From London, Tendai Maphosa filed this report for VOA.
Amnesty International said in a report Friday that despite improvements in the Rwandan justice system, it has serious concerns about Kigali's ability to investigate and prosecute genocide-related crimes fairly, impartially and in line with international standards.
In June, Rwanda abolished the death penalty hoping it would clear the way for countries that object to capital punishment to extradite suspects. Rwanda has since asked that suspects in the 100-day slaughter of 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus be transferred to its custody.
The most high-profile genocide cases are being tried by the U.N.-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, or ICTR, in the Tanzanian city of Arusha.
Amnesty International's Jonathan O'Donaghue outlines the steps the Rwandan government needs to take before suspects can be transferred to Rwanda for trial.
"We have highlighted three main issues," said O'Donaghue. "Firstly, we have concerns about the right to a fair trial within Rwanda, secondly the risk of torture and cruel inhuman and degrading treatment including prison conditions which are appalling. And thirdly is the ability of the systems that are in place to ensure that victims and witnesses that take part in criminal prosecutions are provided with full protection and support."
Amnesty also urged the ICTR not to turn over pending cases to Kigali when the court's mandate expires in 2010.
The International Criminal Tribunal was created in 1994 by the U.N. Security Council. The court has tried 27 cases and handed down 22 convictions.
Amnesty also urged the ICTR not to transfer any of its cases to Rwanda until the government can demonstrate that trials will be conducted according to international standards.
The rights group also expressed concern over trials within Rwanda's community-based gacaca courts, which it says has cast doubt on the nation's justice system.
Rwanda started using the gacaca courts in 2001, where alleged participants in the genocide are tried in their home villages because the nation's regular courts were overwhelmed attempting to try tens of thousands of suspects who allegedly committed genocide.
Amnesty says countries in which genocide suspects are living, such as Britain, France and Canada, should try the suspects themselves.
Rwanda's Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga has condemned Amnesty's statement saying he will accept criticism of Rwanda's legal system if it comes through legitimate channels. He called Amnesty's statement poorly researched and said it does not allow Rwanda to rebut the allegations in a court of law.