Arusha, July 2, 2002 (FH) - The prosecution in the case of ex-Rwandan mayor Ignace Bagilishema, acquitted last year by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday called on the Tribunal's Appeal Chamber to quash the sentence and grant a retrial. But the defence called for a dismissal of the appeal and for judicial regulations binding Bagilishema to be lifted.

3 min 15Approximate reading time

Bagilishema, former mayor of Mabanza commune in Kibuye province, in western Rwanda is the first suspect to be acquitted by the Tribunal. However the prosecution appealed shortly after his acquittal last year and he was placed under some judicial controls pending the appeal hearing. The Chamber ruled that the accused's defence file a motion by the end of the day regarding the controls binding him and that the prosecution respond to this motion before the Chamber by midday, Wednesday. During the hearing on Tuesday, the prosecution maintained that Bagilishema as a mayor was in a position to know that the genocide crimes committed in his commune would have occurred and that he was responsible for subordinates who committed massacres in the commune during the events in 1994. Bagilishema had been charged with seven counts of genocide and crimes against humanity but was acquitted on June 7, 2001. The prosecution had alleged that he had helped plan and execute massacres of Tutsis in the commune of Mabanza, Kibuye province in western Rwanda, of which he was mayor. He was mayor of Mabanza from February 1980 to July 1994. Bagilishema's trial started on October 27th, 1999. Bagilishema's defence counsel Francois Roux of France and Maroufa Diabira of Mauritania had argued that their client tried to protect Tutsi refugees, by warning them of looming danger and asking them to flee south where there were more resources than he had at his disposal. ICTR's Trial Chamber One found by a majority of two to one that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. For this case, the Chamber was composed of judges Erik Mose of Norway (presiding), Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka and Mehmet Güney of Turkey. After his acquittal Bagilishema remained in UN custody in Arusha in search of a host country. France, which turned down a first request to take him, changed its mind following a further request from the ICTR, and took him last October. Judges Claude Jorda, of France (presiding), Mohamed Shahabuddeen of Guyana, David Hunt of Australia, Fausto Pocar of Italy and Theodor Meron of USA are hearing Bagilishema's appeal. The prosecution team comprises of: Canadian, Norman Farrell; Dane, Mathias Marcussen; and Belgian Sonja Boelaert-Suominen. The prosecution argues that the accused was responsible for the actions of his subordinates during the events. Suominen stated that in the case of mass crimes, political leaders oftenmade decisions. The prosecution also drew comparisons between the powers of civilian authorities and military ones. "If the superior had done his duties the crimes would not have been committed," Suominen said. She stated in her argument that there was a nexus between the superior and his subordinates. Marcussen, in his submission, said with regard to contradictions in witness statements during the testimonies, that their written statements were not referred to and that this treatment was unfair to the prosecution. The prosecution made reference to the killings of two Tutsis; one 'Judith' and one 'Bigirimana' in April 1994 at the TRAFIPO road-block close to a commune office and near Bagilishema's office. The prosecution wants the accused held responsible for direct involvement in the murder of these two people. Roux reiterated his earlier argument that his client tried to protect Tutsi refugees with the limited means at his disposal. At the start of Tuesday's proceedings, Roux said that the Registry had failed to facilitate for his co-counsel Diabira to be present for the hearing. In his argument, Roux said the prosecution had failed to show how if at all the Tribunal had committed any errors in judgement by acquitting his client. He asked the Chamber to dismiss the prosecution's appeal because it was filed out of time and also because it had not proved that the Trial Chamber that acquitted his client had committed any errors of law in doing so. In the case of the two people killed at the roadblock, Roux noted the judgement stated the prosecution had failed to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the circumstances were exceptional and that the accused had effective administrative control at the time. Roux also recalled the contradictions by prosecutionwitnesses who placed Bagilishema in different locations on the same day and the same hour. On the issue of administrative authority, Roux told the Chamber that the prosecution was advancing an "interesting and academic discourse" on differences between military and civilian authorities but not stating why the Trial Chamber should not have acquitted Bagilishema. "Mr Bagilishema should not be taken hostage by academic discourses however interesting they are. You [Mr. prosecutor] are defending a case but I am defending a man," Roux said. The prosecution in the case against the former mayor brought 18 witnesses, while the defence brought 15, including Bagilishema himself. Bagilishema, 47, was arrested on February 20th, 1999, in South Africa. He is married with six children. SW/JA/DO/FH (BS-0702e)