Arusha, June 13, 2000 (FH)- The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), will hear later this month, the appeal lodged by former Rwandan Prime Minister, Jean Kambanda, against his sentence. The Chamber will be in Arusha between 27-30 of June to hear the merits and substance of the appeal in which Kambanda seeks to have his guilty plea quashed and to be put on trial.

2 min 12Approximate reading time

Kambanda pleaded guilty in May 1998 to six counts of genocide-related charges. He was sentenced to life inprisonment in September of the same year. In his guilty plea, Kambanda had also agreed to testify against his fellow detainees. However, following the harsh sentence rendered by the chamber, the former prime minister appealed against the sentence. Kambanda's guilty plea has been cited as one of the major achievements of the Tribunal inasmuch as it appeared to vindicate the fact that there was a planned genocide in Rwanda. Those who followed Kambanda's case and sentencing have said that part of the reason why he chose to rescind his plea was his dissatisfaction with the work of his defense lawyer at the time, Cameroonian Oliver Michael Inglis. Kambanda alleges that his counsel did little to secure his rights. A week after judges handed down the harshest punishment they could give to the man who had fully cooperated with the court's investigation, Kambanda wrote a bitter, five-page letter to the court registry accusing his lawyer of working against him. In his letter to the court registry dated September 11, 1998, Kambanda wrote:"Without going as far as putting into question my voluntary and conscious decision to tell the truth to the whole of humanity about the drama of the Rwandan people, regardless of the consequences to myself, permit me to cast doubt over certain practices surrounding my trial and the illusion that some people seem to entertain of having found the sacrificial lamb which will erase the responsibilities of others in the extermination of the Rwandan people. "Kambanda implied that his lawyer, who had been a friend of the Tribunal's Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Muna for 30 years, had been hastily appointed to him despite his 1997 request for another lawyer. He said Inglis was negligent, allowing his case to be tainted by "procedural flaws, which border on scandalous". His letter also complained that Inglis had failed to secure Kambanda's sole request in his plea agreement: the protection of his family in exile. During the sentencing, Judge Laity Kama, the president of the Tribunal, noted that Kambanda's guilty plea and "substantial cooperation" with investigators had been taken into account, but that the former prime minister's major role in the genocide prevented a lighter sentence. "Jean Kambanda has not provided any explanation for his voluntary participation in the genocide nor has he expressed contrition, regret or sympathy for the victims in Rwanda even when given the opportunity to do so," Kama said, referring to Kambanda's refusal to speak during the pre-sentencing hearing. There are those who have said they feel that Kambanda's guilty plea was not whole-hearted and was carefully calculated to lead to a reduction in sentence, and that following the life sentence judgment, he feels he has nothing to lose by going to trial. However, others feel that Kambanda's counsel at the time failed to cater sufficiently to his client's rights. Two other accused persons at the court have pleaded guilty and received much lighter sentences. The two, Omar Serushago and Georges Ruggiu, were sentenced to less than 15 years each. MK/CR/FH (KM%0613e)