Arusha, December 6th, '99 (FH) - The defence counsel for former militia leader Georges Rutaganda said on Monday that she would appeal his life sentence for genocide handed down by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). "I am not at all surprised," Canadian lawyer Tiphaine Dickson told Hirondelle news agency, "and my reaction is to steel myself and prepare myself for an appeal which we will be filing very soon.

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Georges is serene and he has a clear conscience. I think those two elements prevent him from being upset or surprised. "Rutaganda was second Vice-President of the extremist Hutu Interahamwe, seen as the spearhead of the genocide which left some one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him. Ms Dickson said she was still convinced her client was innocent, and that she hoped to get the verdict overturned. "Surely I can expect the Court of Appeal to intervene if there are errors in law and we believe there are. We believe that there are a number of matters we can put to the Court of Appeal and have them reconsider: aspects of the verdict, on the one hand, and aspects throughout the trial in terms of fundamental fairness. "On November 27th, Ms Dickson filed an urgent motion arguing that the ICTR was subject to political pressures from Rwanda, that it could not be viewed as independent, and that her client should be released. The court rejected the motion, saying no motions were admissible once judges were deliberating on the case. It also told the court Registry that she should not be remunerated for the preparation of the motion. Ms Dickson said political pressure from the Rwandan authorities had become obvious since a November 3rd Appeal Court decision ordering the release of genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza on the grounds that procedures were repeatedly violated during his initial detention in Cameroon and after his transfer to the ICTR prison in Arusha. That decision caused the Rwandan government to suspend its cooperation with the ICTR. "Ever since the Appeal Court rendered its judgement in Prosecutor versus Barayagwiza," Ms Dickson told Hirondelle, " we have had a number of statements and what I consider to be threats akin to blackmail that have been made by the government of Rwanda which is in a position to paralyze the procedures here. The UN basic guidelines on judicial independence have spoken clearly against foreign entities intervening in the judicial process. "Prosecution could also appealTrial Chamber One of the ICTR found Rutaganda guilty on three out of the eight counts charged against him. It found him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination) for his part in massacres of thousands of Tutsis notably at the ETO school and Nyanza in Kigali. He was also found guilty of crimes against humanity (murder) for killing a Tutsi refugee with a machete. However, the court found him not-guilty of two other charges of crimes against humanity (murder) relating to the ETO and Nyanza massacres. Presiding Judge Laity Kama of Senegal said the Chamber had done this because the charges related to the same facts as the crimes against humanity (extermination) charge, which it considered to be a more serious one. The court also found Rutaganda not-guilty on three counts of violating the Geneva Conventions applicable in times of war. Although the Chamber admitted there was a civil war going on in Rwanda at the time, and that most of the victims were civilians, it said "the Prosecutor has not convinced the Chamber that Rutaganda was in the category of people responsible for violations of the Geneva Conventions". "We did get a life sentence for three counts, and we're quite satisfied with that," said prosecutor Holo Makwaia, "but I -- and everyone on the prosecution team -- will have to go and read the entire judgement to pronounce on the war crimes count and the reasons we lost it. "Ms Makwaia said an appeal by the prosecution could not be ruled out. "The evidence we used we thought showed the connection between him and the Interahamwe," she told Hirondelle, "and we produced evidence showing that at a certain point in time Interahamwe were trained. So here you had an organized militia structure and for all purposes we thought it fitted into the requirements of the crime. "JC/FH (RU§1206f)