The judges thus granted a motion filed by the prosecutor on 12 June within the framework of the ICTR completion strategy in December 2008. According to this strategy, the trials which will not be finished by this date will be transferred to competent national courts. Munyeshyaka and Bucyibaruta have lived in France for several years. In 2005, they were indicted by the ICTR.
In justifying its decision, the ICTR estimated that France was able to try the two men and had jurisdiction. It moreover made sure that, in the event of possible a guilty verdict, the defendants do not risk the death penalty because France abolished it in 1981. The judges also declared themselves convinced that French courts present all the guarantees for a fair trial.
The decision quotes the independence of French courts, the respect of the principle of the presumption of innocence, the obligation for a defendant to be assisted by a lawyer, the right to be tried within a reasonable delay, the right to question or to have questioned the witnesses as well as that of appeal, if necessary. The ICTR also said that it is convinced that adequate measures for the protection of witnesses will be taken.
As for the proceedings, the ICTR held this week proceedings in four cases: Butare, Zigiranyirazo, Military II and Karemera.
Butare, from the name of the southern area of the country, is the oldest trial in progress. Started in 2001, it involves six defendants. It is the fifth of them, the former mayor of Ngoma, Joseph Kanyabashi, who is currently presenting his defence. This week Kanyabashi was defended by his wife Bernadette and the Belgian researcher Filip Reyntjens. Law professor at the University of Antwerp, and former professor at the National University of Rwanda (UNR), Reyntjens supported that the authority of the mayor of Ngoma had been diluted during the genocide. "Nothing indicates that Kanyabashi approved the massacres of Tutsis. If not, I would not be here before you" to testify for him, declared Reyntjens, who estimates that the official authorities were shorted circuited by "parallel forces".
In the case of Protais Zigiranyirazo, former prefect of Ruhengeri (northern Rwanda), a brother-in-law of former President Juvénal Habyarimana, the ICTR refused to receive as evidence a letter attributed to an accused that died in Belgium, Juvénal Uwilingiyimana, former director of the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks (ROTNP). The admission into evidence of this letter, dated 5 November 2005, had been requested by the defence. In this controversial letter, Uwilingiyimana accused investigators of the office of the prosecutor of the ICTR of having tried, by threats and intimidations, to obtain from him false allegations against Zigiranyirazo and other ICTR accused, which the office of the prosecutor has always denied.
In the Karemera case, the chamber authorized the prosecutor to appeal its decision to exclude testimony from two experts: the French sociologist Andre Guichaoua and the American historian Alison Des Forges. Edouard Karemera was vice-president of the former presidential party in 1994. He is accused alongside two of his colleagues in the direction of the party. Started in September 2005, the trial is still at the prosecution phase.
In Military II, it is the defence which is calling witnesses. Started in September 2004, the case involves four officers. It is the first of them, General Augustin Bizimungu, former chief of staff of the Rwandan army, who is presenting his defence. He should call his last witness in mid-December; if the infighting between the defence teams and the prosecution does not prevent it.
Next week, the arrival of the appeal chamber, usually based in The Hague, will begin the week’s activities in Arusha. The judges will examine Monday the appeal of Father Athanase Seromba; then Tuesday, they will render their judgment in the appeal of Aloys Simba. On Wednesday, they will hear Lieutenant Colonel Tharcisse Muvunyi; then Thursday, they will deliver their judgment in the media trial.
© Hirondelle News Agency