Arusha, 20 January 2009 (FH) - Both, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the defence team in the genocide case against Protais Zigiranyirazo, former brother in law of Rwandan President, the late Juvenal Habyarimana have appealed against the conviction and a 20-year jail sentence handed down to the accused last December.

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In two different notices of appeals filed by the Prosecutor and the defence on 15 and 19 of January, 2009 respectively the parties claimed separately that the trial Chamber erred in the determination of conviction and sentencing based on the events at Kiyovu roadblock in Kigali city and Kesho Hill in Gisenyi, North of Rwanda where several ethnic-Tutsis were slaughtered in April, 1994.

The Prosecutor in his notice of appeal categorically stated that the Trial Chamber erred on the sentences imposed on Zigiranyirazo compelling him to serve them concurrently instead of consecutively.

On December 18, 2008, the appellant was sentenced to 20 years in prison on genocide for his involvement at Kesho hill killings, another 15 years for his acts at the Kiyovu roadblock and for extermination he was sentenced to 20 years, all of which were directed to be served concurrently.

According to the notice of appeal, the Chamber ignored several issues before handing down the sentences including, full responsibility of the accused for the crimes committed, Tribunal's sentencing practice in similar cases and it even failed to give consideration to Rwanda's sentencing framework.

"The relief sought is the reversal of the sentence imposed by the Trial Chamber and the imposition upon Protais Zigiranyirazo of an appropriate sentence of imprisonment for the remainder of his life," pleaded the Prosecutor in his notice of appeal.

On the other hand the defence team alleged that their client was neither in charge of the Kiyovu roadblock nor did he distribute weapons but rather his involvement was limited to encouraging the participants of the roadblock to check identifications and distribution of food, both of which did not contribute substantially to the killings, according to the defence notice of appeal.

The defence also denied the appellant participation at the Kesho hill events as in charge of the attack, distributed arms and that the content of his speech could not be ascertained claiming also that he left the scene at the beginning of the attack.

The notice of appeal signed by four members of the defence team including the lead counsel, Canadian lawyer, John Philpot prayed that the conviction be turned down and acquit the appellant on all counts, order a new trial or reduce the sentence substantially.

The date for the hearing is yet to be determined.


© Hirondelle News Agency