The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Tuesday transferred [press release] the cases of 25 suspects in the 1994 Rwandan conflict [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to Rwandan authorities. The suspects, who have been investigated but not yet indicted by the ICTR, are believed to be in hiding abroad. Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga [New Times profile] has stated that his government will complete the investigations [RNA report], issue international arrest warrants, and try the suspects at open trials in domestic courts [GlobaLex backgrounder]. Ngoga characterized the transfer as a "vote of confidence" in the country's judicial system. ICTR Chief Prosecutor Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow [official profile] praised the improvements made to the capacity and infrastructure of the Rwandan judiciary and expressed his intention to transfer more cases to Rwanda as called for under UN Security Council [official website] Resolution 1503 [text, PDF]. The transfers come after those of 35 other open investigations to Rwanda.
The transfers are a part of the strategy intended to finish [completion strategy text, PDF] the court's trial work by 2011. There are currently 24 cases in progress, and two others await trial. In June 2009, Ngoga told the UN Security Council [JURIST report] that the decisions by the ICTR not to transfer pending cases to Rwandan jurisdiction, including genocide suspects Jean-Baptiste Gatete [TrialWatch profile; JURIST report] and Yussuf Munyakazi [case materials; JURIST report] undermines his country's judicial reforms and hinders national reconciliation. Ngoga said that "[e]rroneous, factually incorrect assessments" and occasional "deliberate misrepresentations" of the country's human rights situation by advocacy organizations like Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] have also had a negative effect [New Times report] on the country's progress. Emphasizing that Rwanda has continued to cooperate with the tribunal, Ngoga expressed the country's desire to have the cases transferred to Rwandan jurisdiction at the completion of the ICTR's mandate. The ICTR was established to try genocide suspects for crimes occurring during the 1994 Rwandan conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in which approximately 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, died.