By George Obulutsa
NAIROBI (Reuters) - A U.N. Court trying the masterminds of Rwanda's 1994 genocide said on Tuesday it had for the first time referred one of its cases to be tried in Rwanda itself.
Rwanda has in the past unsuccessfully sought to have the court hand it some of the cases. In 2007, Rwanda's parliament scrapped the death penalty for genocide suspects who are either being held in Tanzania or at large elsewhere abroad and has introduced legal reforms required by the court.
"The ... International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)today referred the case of Jean Uwinkindi to the Republic of Rwanda to be tried in the Rwandan national court system ..., marking the first time in the Tribunal's history it has done so," the court said in a statement.
Uwinkindi, a pastor, was arrested in Uganda in 2010 and indicted for genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and extermination as a crime against humanity. The ICTR said Uwinkindi "led a group of killers to look for and exterminate Tutsi, in particular Tutsi civilians from Kanzenze commune."
The court said legal changes in Rwanda made a trial there possible.
"The Chamber noted that Rwanda had made material changes in its laws and had indicated its capacity and willingness to prosecute cases referred by the ICTR adhering to internationally recognized fair trial standards enshrined in the ICTR Statute and other human rights instruments," the court said.
"In particular, the Chamber found that the issues which concerned previous Referral Chambers, namely the availability of witnesses and their protection, had been addressed to some degree in the intervening period."
During the genocide, some 800,000 members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutus were butchered in 100 days of killings.
In late May, one of the top wanted masterminds of the killings, Bernard Munyagishari, a former Hutu militia leader wanted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo.