The Government of the Republic of Benin and the United Nations today signed an agreement in Cotonou, capital of Benin, under which Benin agrees to accommodate persons convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for the purpose of serving their sentences. Benin thus becomes the second country, following Mali, to sign such an agreement.
The agreement was signed on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Benin by Mr. Antoine Idji Kolawole , Minister of Foreign Affairs and, on behalf of the United Nations, by Mr. Agwu U. Okali, Assistant Secretary-General and Registrar of the ICTR.
Mr Joseph Gnonlonfoun, Minister of Justice and Minister for Legislation and Human Rights was also present at the signing ceremony.
According to the Statute of the Tribunal sentences of imprisonment "shall be served in Rwanda or any of the States on a list of States which have indicated to the Security Council their willingness to accept convicted persons, as designated by the ICTR. Such imprisonment shall be in accordance with the applicable law of the State concerned, subject to the supervision of the ICTR."
The President of the Republic of Benin, His Excellency Mr Mathieu Kérékou, will receive the Registrar later. The signature of the agreement is the latest step in Benin's long-standing cooperation with the Tribunal, confirming the Republic's respect for the observance of international law. It should be recalled that the former Speaker of the Rwandan parliament and Secretary General of the MRND, Joseph Nzirorera as well as the Bourgmestre of Mukingo, Juvenal Kajelijeli were both arrested in Benin on 5 June 1998 before being transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha.
In addition to Mali and Benin, a number of other African States and certain European States have also indicated their willingness to accommodate ICTR convicts. States also cooperate with the Tribunal in other ways such as financial or material help, and assistance with the protection or travel of witnesses. Negotiations for agreements on the accommodation of convicts are currently underway with other States.
At present, five people have been convicted by the Tribunal, three of whom have been sentenced to imprisonment for life, namely Jean Kambanda, Former Prime Minister of Rwanda, Jean-Paul Akayesu, formerly Bourgmestre of Taba and Clement Kayishema formerly Prefect of Kibuye. Businessmen Obed Ruzindana and Omar Serushago were sentenced to 25 years and 15 years of imprisonment respectively. All of those convicted have appealed against their convictions and/or the sentences imposed.