Rwanda Releases Some Genocide Suspects
KIGALI, Rwanda (Jan 10, 02) - Rwanda began releasing hundreds of elderly and ill
genocide suspects and other detainees on Friday to ease overcrowding in its prisons,
the attorney general said.
After President Paul Kagame called last week for the conditional release of some 40,000
prison inmates, doctors began examining the most seriously ill and elderly and
recommending that they be let out.
Those released will still be held accountable for their alleged crimes, and the decree does
not cover organizers, leaders and supervisors of the 1994 genocide and those accused of
rape during the 100-day slaughter, Attorney General Gerard Gahima said. At least half a
million people, most of them minority Tutsis, were slaughtered on the orders of an
extremist government of the Hutu majority.
About 115,000 genocide suspects are being held in Rwandan prisons, representing
between 90 percent and 95 percent of the entire prison population. Most have never
been formally charged and were jailed on accusations made by friends and relatives of
Justice ministry officials said they did not have exact figures but estimated that many of
the sick prisoners released are suffering from HIV (news - web sites)/AIDS (news - web
sites). "We started by releasing the elderly and the very sick throughout the country,"
Gahima said. "Next Friday we will begin releasing minors."
Gahima said justice authorities will release names on Jan. 23 of healthy genocide
suspects who qualify for conditional release after confessing their roles in the slaughter.
The suspects will then be taken to so-called Solidarity Camps, where they will receive
civic education and counseling on reconciliation before going back to their home
villages, he said.
Most of those released will eventually face trial by their neighbors under a traditional
community court system known as "gacaca." The maximum penalty in such courts is life
in prison, whereas in regular courts it is death.