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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July, 2005, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Rwanda to free 30,000 prisoners
By Robert Walker
BBC Kigali

Hutu prisoner 1995
Some prisoners have been held for 10 years without trial
Rwanda has announced the provisional release of up to 30,000 prisoners suspected of involvement in genocide and other crimes.

However, they may still face justice at local village courts, said government officials.

Most have confessed to their crimes and none is considered to be in the top category of genocide suspects.

No date has been given for this mass release of mostly ethnic Hutu prisoners - the third since 2003.

Since the 1994 genocide in which around 800,000 people died, Rwanda's justice system has been overwhelmed by the number of suspects in detention.

Rwanda's Minister of Justice, Edda Mukabagwiza, told the BBC the prisoners would first attend solidarity camps designed to sensitise them before they return to their communities and come into contact with genocide survivors.

Some criticism

Rwandan authorities are stressing this is a provisional release rather than an amnesty. Those who committed crimes will still face justice, they say.

Many will appear before village-based courts called Gacaca which are trying genocide cases across the country.

The decision by the Rwandan government means that thousands of men and women accused of involvement in the genocide will be able to return to their homes.

Some of those to be released are sick while others were minors at the time of the offence.

Previous releases have drawn criticism from some genocide survivors who claim that some of those who are accused have made false confessions to secure their release.

Currently there are some 70,000 genocide suspects still in prison.

Many have now spent more than a decade in detention without trial.

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