Arusha, May 26, 2003 (FH) - The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), on Monday confirmed the life sentenced handed down to the former vicepresident of the Interahamwe militia, Georges Rutaganda. The Interahamwe was the youth wing of the MRND, a political party allied to former president Juvenal Habyarimana.

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The five judges of the chamber sitting in Arusha, unanimously declared Rutaganda guilty on four counts: genocide, crimes against humanity (extermination), and two counts of murder related to war crimes (violations of article 3 common to the Geneva conventions). In rendering the sentence, the chamber confirmed a decision handed down on December 6, 1999 by Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, in which it found the accused guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination), and not guilty on three separate counts of war crimes three separate counts of war crimes (assassination). The appeals chamber also overturned an acquittal by the trial chamber on two counts of war crimes, and also handed down a not guilty ruling on one count of crimes against humanity (murder) that the trial chamber had declared guilty. This is the first time that an accused has been found guilty for war crimes by the ICTR. The appeals chamber visibly altered Trial Chamber One's judgement. The chamber brought the number of counts the accused was guilty of from three to four. Rutaganda had originally been charged with eight counts. A large part of Rutaganda's reasons for appeal were thrown out by the chamber on the grounds that they were either unfounded or were of minor importance to influence the outcome of the trial chamber's decisions. Among Rutaganda's arguments that the chamber found not to hold water was allegations by the accused was that judges in the trial chamber had been biased in their treatment of defence witnesses, including Rutaganda himself, thereby denying him the right to be presumed innocent. The chamber also ruled that the right to crossexamine witnesses had been accorded to the accused. It also added that remarks made by the judges in the trial chamber should not be held against them as it was part of their prerogatives in controlling the proceedings. The appellant had also accused the judges in his earlier hearings of relying on hearsay evidence, but that argument was also thrown out by the appeals chamber saying that the testimonies were receivable as they fell within the boundaries provided for by regulations. It was also Rutaganda's view that the judges had wrongly rejected his alibi, implying that apart from being brought in late, it was also madeup. The chamber considered that the accused had a point in that regard but added that he should have taken advantage of that alibi during the process. Rutaganda was on the other hand acquitted of the death of a certain Emmanuel Kayitare, on the grounds that there were many contradictions in prosecution testimonies regarding the matter. The tribunal concurred with the prosecutor's arguments that Rutaganda be found guilty on two counts of war crimes. The court considered that the massacres that took place at Nyanza and at Ecole Technique de Kicukiro (ETO) in Kigali were related to the armed conflict taking place at the time. It continued that the victims were civilians who should have been protected from the conflict. Therefore the killings violated provisions in the Geneva Conventions regarding the protection of civilians in times of war. George Rutaganda, 45, was arrested in Zambia on October 10, 1995 and transferred to Arusha on May 26, 1996 and his case began in the trial chamber on March 18, 1997. Rutaganda's defence counsels during the appeal were two Canadians; David Jacobs and David Paciocco. Tiphaine Jackson, who represented Rutaganda in the trial stages, withdrew from the case for health reasons. The case has been in deliberation ever since February 28, 2003. Judge Theodore Meron of the USA, ruled that Rutaganda would remain at the UN detention facilities in Arusha until it was decided where he should be imprisoned. The tribunal has signed accords with Mali, Benin, Swaziland and France that will allow those condemned by the ICTR to serve their sentences in those countries. KN/AT/CE/FH(RU'0526e)