ICTR Delivers its Final Appeal Judgment

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) delivered its judgment of the appeals in the trial of The Prosecutor vs. Nyiramasuhuko et al. (Butare Case) on the 14th of December in the Courtroom of the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania.

ictrThis is the final judgment issued by the Tribunal, which was established by the UN Security Council in 1994 with the mandate to try those responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and neighbouring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.

The appeal was lodged by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, Sylvain Nsabimana, Alphonse Nteziryayo, Joseph Kanyabashi, Élie Ndayambaje, and the Prosecution. The six accused in the case were, on 24 June 2011, variously convicted of crimes of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for their role in crimes committed against Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.

Nyiramasuhuko served as Minister of Family and Women’s Development under the interim government in 1994. Ntahobali, Nyiramasuhuko’s son, was a student and part?time manager of Hotel Ihuliro in Butare-villeSector in April 1994. Nsabimana was appointed prefect of Butare on 19 April 1994 and served in that position until 17 June 1994 when he was replaced by Nteziryayo. Kanyabashi was the bourgmestre of Ngoma Commune during the events at issue. Ndayambaje served as bourgmestre of Muganza Commune from 18 June 1994 until he left Rwanda on 7 July 1994.

The Trial Chamber sentenced Nyiramasuhuko, Ntahobali, and Ndayambaje to life imprisonment and imposed sentences of 25, 30, and 35 years of imprisonment on Nsabimana, Nteziryayo, and Kanyabashi, respectively.

On appeal, the accused complained that their right to be tried without undue delay had been violated. The accused had all been arrested and transferred to the custody of the Tribunal between 1995 and 1998 and they were only now finally judged. The Appeals Chamber held that the Prosecution’s failure to comply with its disclosure obligations and lack of readiness created unjustified delays in the start of the trial. Moreover, the Appeals Chamber observed that, during the trial phase, the judges sitting in this case were also involved in several other proceedings before the Tribunal, which affected the pace of the trial. The Co-Accused had already been in detention for nearly 4 to 6 years at the start of the trial.

The Appeals Chamber further determined that the Trial Chamber applied an incorrect legal standard when convicting Nyiramasuhuko, Ntahobali, Nsabimana, Kanyabashi, and Ndayambaje of persecution as a crime against humanity on the basis that they acted with discriminatory intent on ethnic grounds. The Appeals Chamber, by a majority, concluded that none of the Trial Chamber’s findings supports the conclusion that they committed this crime on one of the three discriminatory grounds enumerated in Article 3(h) of the Statute, namely on political, racial, or religious grounds, and reversed their convictions on this basis.

For each of the accused individually, the Appeals Chamber made several further findings which affirmed convictions for Nyiramasuhuko, Nsabimana, Nteziryayo, Ntahobali Kanyabashi, and Ndayambaje. The last three individuals also saw some of their convictions reversed.

The Appeals Chamber dismissed the Prosecution’s appeal alleging that the Trial Chamber erred in acquitting Kanyabashi of genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to the speech he gave at the 19 April 1994 swearing-in ceremony of Nsabimana as prefect of Butare.

Having considered the impact of its findings on appeal, in particular that the six appellants’ right to be tried without undue delay had been violated, the Appeals Chamber reduced the life sentences imposed by the Trial Chamber on Nyiramasuhuko, Ntahobali, and Ndayambaje, to 47 years of imprisonment for each of them. With respect to Nsabimana, Nteziryayo, and Kanyabashi, the Appeals Chamber further found certain errors in the Trial Chamber’s determination of their respective sentences, and considering the impact of all its findings, reduced Nsabimana’s sentence to 18 years of imprisonment, Nteziryayo’s sentence to 25 years of imprisonment, and Kanyabashi’s sentence to 20 years of imprisonment. Considering time already served, the Appeals Chamber ordered Nsabimana’s and Kanyabashi’s immediate release.

This last judgment of the Appeals Chamber brings an end to the Tribunal’s judicial activity. The ICTR had already delivered its last trial judgment on 20 December 2012 in the Ngirabatware case.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) started assuming responsibility for the ICTR’s residual functions on 1 July 2012. One key function assumed by the Mechanism is the tracking and arrest of the accused who remain fugitives from justice.

Only last week it was reported that Ladislas Ntaganzwa, a former mayor of Nyakizu Commune in the Prefecture of Butare who was indicted by the ICTR for genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacre of thousands of Tutsis during the 1994 genocide, was arrested by authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Eight other fugitives: Felicien Kabuga, Augustin Bizimana, Protais Mpiranya, Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama, Aloys Ndimbati, Ryandikayo, and Charles Sikubwabo, remain at large and there is a reward of up to 5 million United States Dollars for information leading to their arrest and transfer to the appropriate jurisdiction for trial.