Arusha, 11 September 2007 (FH)- The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) refused to grant early release to a former officer of the Rwandan army found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

1 min 37Approximate reading time

On 7 July 2006, Lieutenant Samuel Imanishimwe, 47, was convicted to twelve years in prison by the appeal chamber of the ICTR. The sentence began on 11 August 1997, date of his arrest in Mombasa Kenya.

This request was addressed to the president of the ICTR on 14 June 2007. The rejection decision was rendered on 30 August.

The president of the ICTR, Judge Denis Byron (Saint-Kitts and Nevis), in this decision, estimated that the gravity of the crimes which Imanishimwe was found guilty of did not justify a commutation of the sentence.

The lawyer of Imanishimwe, Marie Louise Mbida (Cameroon), had justified her request by several factors; including remorse for the victims, lack of criminal precedents, good behaviour before and during detention, potentially fragile health as well as the desire of the convict to rehabilitate himself in order to be useful to his country.

Judge Byron considered that some of these factors had been taken into account as extenuating circumstances at the time of the determination of the sentence and that others were not important factors considering the gravity of the crimes in question.

The rules of the ICTR stipulate to appreciate the appropriateness of a grace or a commutation of sentence, the president also considers the gravity of the crimes, the treatment reserved for other convicted in the same situation, the will of social rehabilitation as well as the seriousness and extent of co-operation that the convict offered the prosecutor.

None of the 33 ICTR convicts has been granted early release. Before Imanishimwe, three others convicted to prison sentences by the ICTR had requested early release without success. They were the Italian-Belgian journalist George Ruggiu, the former militia leader Omar Serushago and the former municipal councillor Vincent Rutaganira. The only person convicted to have been released after serving their sentence, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, died of natural causes a few weeks thereafter.

In support of her request, the lawyer of Imanishimwe had brought forth jurisprudence from the twin tribunal for the former Yugoslavia which, for its part, has granted several early releases; however, Judge Byron indicated that those which benefited from this measure had not been convicted for the same crimes as Imanishimwe.

The former officer who, in 1994, commanded a military camp in Cyangugu (south-western Rwanda) was tried alongside two native dignitaries of this area who were acquitted. They were former Prefect Emmanuel Bagambiki and former Minister André Ntagerura.

© Hirondelle News Agency