Arusha, June 27th, 2000 (FH) - Former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda told the Appeals Court of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday that he had not been properly advised when he pleaded guilty to genocide, and had signed a plea agreement he did not believe in. "I consider that I did not receive any advice [from a defence counsel] before signing my confession of guilt," Kambanda told the court.

1 min 44Approximate reading time

He said that his lawyer at the time, Michael Inglis of Cameroon, had had "neither the time nor the desire" to study the agreement. "I signed an agreement which I did not believe in, and which I still do not believe in, in the hope that I would later have a good lawyer [. . . ] who would be able to explain everything to me," Kambanda told the court. Kambanda was sentenced to life imprisonment on September 4th, 1998, after signing an agreement with the prosecution to plead guilty. On Tuesday he asked the Appeals Court to revoke that plea and order a trial. "I was aware of the facts contained in the so-called plea agreement, but some of them seem so inaccurate that I now reject them all," Kambanda said. The former prime minister confirmed his recognition of the fact that a genocide took place in Rwanda in 1994. But, he said the plea agreement failed to mention that "thousands of Hutus, moderate and otherwise, and of Twas were murdered" along with ethnic Tutsis. Kambanda told the court that the interests of revealing the truth also required that these crimes be punished, including massacres committed by the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The former Prime Minister told the court how he had been denied the lawyer of his choice, Belgian lawyer Johan Scheers, on the grounds that Scheers had been sanctioned for misconduct in another case. Later, he said, he was assigned the Cameroonian lawyer Inglis, who was a longstanding friend of the ICTR's deputy prosecutor Bernard Muna. Kambanda said he had agreed to accept Inglis because Muna had promised him he could later have Scheers as a co-counsel. Scheers was never assigned. The former prime minister also told the court he had hardly ever met with Inglis alone to discuss his case. He said Inglis never asked him any questions and that most of their meetings took place with members of the prosecution. Kambanda was prime minister in the interim government which presided over the 1994 genocide, in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. He is defended by Dutch lawyer Tjarda Eduard van der Spoel. His guilty plea was considered a vital plank in prosecution strategy to show that the genocide was planned. It is also behind prosecution strategy to hold joint trials of leading genocide suspects. JC/FH (KM%0627e)