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Rwanda to Free Suspects in Genocide

March 28, 2004|From Associated Press

KIGALI, Rwanda — Rwanda plans to release at least 30,000 suspects who confessed to participating in the 1994 genocide, allowing them to be tried in community courts rather than by the country's overburdened central judicial system, an official said Saturday.

The suspects will be released by the end of June -- cutting by a third the 90,000 suspects being held on charges of taking part in the slaughter of more than 800,000 people, most of them minority Tutsis, said Johnston Busingye, secretary-general of the Justice Ministry.

In May, about 23,000 suspects were released after confessing that they took part in the genocide.

Like those scheduled to be released in June, the first group promised to lead exemplary lives while waiting to be tried in community courts known as gacaca, which can impose a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The release is intended to ease crowding in Rwanda's prisons and the resulting strain on government coffers -- Rwanda spends about $2.6 million feeding the suspects each month.

Leaders of the genocide are not eligible to be released.

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