RWANDA. PARLIAMENT TO VOTE ON ABOLISHING DEATH PENALTY
September 5, 2006: Rwanda will pass a law ending capital punishment by December 2006 to encourage European countries to extradite suspected masterminds of the genocide that occurred in the country in 1994.
Unless the country abolishes capital punishment, it will not be able to try in its own national courts the masterminds of the genocide, Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama said.
For more than a decade, the Rwandan government has demanded the return of suspects living abroad. Some nations, notably Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland, have refused to extradite the suspects because the countries feared the suspects may be executed.Ā
These countries preferred instead to prosecute them in their own courts.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is reviewing the cases of 57 suspects in a specially built prison in Tanzania. Rwanda would like those suspects to be sent back or, if found guilty, to be imprisoned in Rwanda. So far, the UN, too, has declined because officials fear the suspects will be put to death ā a violation of UN principles.
By abolishing the death penalty, Karugarama said, Rwanda could gain faster access to the accused.
Although the ICTR is mandated to complete all business by December 2008, officials in Tanzania predict their work will not be finished by then. Since its inception in 1996, 28 suspects have been tried. Of those, 25 have been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment.
There are currently some 650 prisoners on death row in Rwanda's overcrowded jails, according to the justice ministry.Ā
Since the genocide ended in 1994, 40 people were sentenced to death in 2002 for crimes committed during the genocide, and in 2003, 18 received the sentence for perpetrating it.
In 1998, however, 22 people found guilty of masterminding the genocide received the death penalty and were executed. (Sources: Jurist, 05/09/2006; Inter Press Service, 03/09/2006)