Arusha, February 9, 2000 (FH) - Former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda has asked the Appeal Court of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to quash the guilty verdict handed down by the Trial Chamber and order a new trial for him. Kambanda was Prime Minister of the Rwandan interim government that presided over the genocide.

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He pleaded guilty to genocide before the ICTR and was sentenced to life imprisonment in September 1998. He is one of only two ICTR detainees to have pleaded guilty so far, and by far the highest ranking. His guilty plea became a cornerstone of prosecution strategy to show that the genocide was planned and that other political leaders at the time should be prosecuted. In a "consolidated notice of appeal" dated February 7th, Kambanda's new lawyer, Tjarda E. van der Spoel (Netherlands) says that the Trial Chamber "erred in law by accepting the validity of the plea-agreement without a thorough investigation". He quotes amended ICTR rules which state that: "In case of a plea of guilty, the Trial Chamber shall satisfy itself that the guilty plea: a) is made freely and voluntarily; b)is an informed plea; c) is unequivocal; and d) is based on sufficient facts for the crime and the accused's participation in it, either on the basis of independent indicia or lack of any disagreement between the parties about the facts of the case". Van der Spoel also says that the Trial Chamber should have taken into account Kambanda's right to be defended by a lawyer of his choice, and "the appellant's unlawful detention outside the Detention Unit of the Tribunal". After his arrest in Kenya in July 1997, Kambanda was detained in a residence in Dodoma, central Tanzania, and not at the United Nations prison in Arusha. If, however, the Appeal Court shoulde deny the primary request for a new trial, Van der Spoel asks that it should "set aside and revise the entire sentence". He says the Trial Chamber should have applied "the general principle of law that a plea of guilty as a mitigating factor carries with it a discount in sentence". Among his other arguments, he says that the Trial Chamber should have taken into account "mitigating circumstances, personal circumstances of the convict, the substantial co-operation of the convict with the Prosecutor and the general practice regarding prison sentence in the courts of Rwanda". Although Rwanda applies the death sentence, it does normally grant a reduction in sentence for those who plead guilty. JC/FH (KM%0209e)