International House of Dan: December 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Everybody has dirty hands"

In light of the recent escalation of hostilities in the Eastern Congo, due in part to Rwandan government involvement, it was a relief to hear news of progress from the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

The Court's non-official press release states that:

"Trial Chamber I today rendered judgement in the “Military I” case involving four senior officers of the Rwandan army in 1994: Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, Director of Cabinet in the Rwandan Ministry of Defence; General Gratien Kabiligi, head of the military operations bureau (G-3) of the army general staff; Major Aloys Ntabakuze, commander of the Para Commando Battalion; and Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, commander of the Operational Sector of Gisenyi.

It sentenced Bagosora, Ntabakuze and Nsengiyumva to life imprisonment for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes based on their role in crimes committed in Rwanda. The Chamber acquitted Kabiligi of all charges against him and ordered his release. It also acquitted each of the Accused of conspiring to commit genocide before 7 April 1994."

Court documents relating to this latest development in the case (Case # ICTR 98-41) are not yet available on the UN-ICTR Judicial Database.

According to a 2002 non-official ICTR Background Note, Bagosora and Nsengiyumva were arrested in Cameroon in 1996, Ntabakuze and Kabiligi were arrested in Kenya in 1997. The Note states that the 12-count indictment against Bagosora alleged that:

"[He] made speeches, which incited, encouraged and promoted ethnic hatred and violence against Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. He was also allegedly instrumental in recruiting, training and arming members of the militia groups and then ordering them to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus. He is alleged to have conspired with others to work out a plan with intent to exterminate the civilian Tutsis and members of the opposition. To implement the plan, Bagosora and members of his group are alleged to have organised, ordered and participated in the massacres perpetrated against the Tutsi population and moderate Hutus."

Bagosora was first indicted in March of 1998, along with 28 others, but that indictment was dismissed later that year. Prosecutors filed an amended indictment that Fall, and following extensive briefing on a variety of issues, including the joinder of certain defendants, the matter was set for trial to begin in 2002.

While the Tribunal sits in Arusha, Tanzania, Article 23 of the Statute provides that in setting penalties, the "Trial Chambers shall have recourse to the general practice regarding prison sentences in the courts of Rwanda." Article 24 provides that appeal may be had on the basis of an error or law, or of a newly discovered fact which would have prevented the Judgment if it had been known. Under Part VII, Rule 108 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, any notice of appeal setting forth the basis for appeal must be filed within 30 days of the decision being appealed, unless an extension of time is granted, for good cause, pursuant to Rule 116.

The title of this post is from René Lemarchand, on the situation in Eastern Congo, as quoted by Lydia Polgreen in an 18 December, 2008, New York Times article about the ICTR ruling.