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More than 19,000 released

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NAIROBI, 29 Jan 2003 (IRIN) - Rwanda released 19,276 genocide suspects on Tuesday, in an ongoing process aimed at decongesting the country's prisons.
 
The director of administration of justice, Hannington Tayebwa, told IRIN on
Wednesday that most of the released prisoners had confessed, and had been
sentenced before the implementation of the Gacaca system of justice, launched
in Rwanda in 2002.
Gacaca is based on a Rwandan traditional justice system whereby the
community - at village level - tries suspects in open sessions held at the cellule,
the country's lowest administrative unit. Rwandans chose Gacaca judges in
2002 from among the population.
 
Tayebwa said Tuesday's action brought to 2,130 the total number of prisoners
released since 10 January.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame issued a decree on 1 January, granting the
provisional release of the prisoners, mostly the aged, the sick, those who were
minors during the violence, and those uninvolved in planning the genocide.
 
The prisoners freed on Tuesday included 12,628 who had been ranked in the
second and third categories of the government's list of genocide suspects;
1,966 who had been acquitted of their crimes under Gacaca law; 1,792 who
had confessed and been sentenced before Gacaca; 1,116 who were minors
(between 14 and 18 years) during the 1994 genocide; 937 who were charged
with crimes unrelated to genocide; 105 former rebels; 302 who were released
by the prosecution department; and another 302 who had confessed, and their
files were already in national courts.
 
Rwanda released 2,130 prisoners on 10 January, mostly those aged over 70,
and the sick.
The government of Rwanda maintains a list of genocide suspects, which is
divided into four categories, ranging from the alleged planners, the killers to
those who looted or committed other less serious crimes. Those on category
one face the death penalty if tried in Rwanda, or life in prison if tried before the
UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.
Tayebwa said those released on Tuesday would first undergo two months at
"solidarity camps" before finally being allowed to go back to their communities.
The camps are scheduled to begin the re-education process on Friday.
Each province has a solidarity camp, where the prisoners will undergo training
in several aspects aimed at reintegrating them into the community. "They will
be taught about the reconciliation process, developmental studies and history
of the genocide among many other lessons," Tayebwa told IRIN. He said
provinces such as Gitarama and Butare have more than one solidarity camp.
 
The genocide, which took place between April and July 1994, claimed some
800,000 lives.
The Gacaca justice system was launched in a bid to expedite the genocide
trials and decongest the prisons, which have been home to hundreds of
thousands of prisoners since the overthrow of the former government in 1994.