Arusha, 22 May 2009 (FH) - The President of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Justice Dennis Byron, is preparing, with two of his colleagues, to beat a record on 16 June, by rendering a fastest judgement; less than two months after the closing arguments.

2 min 19Approximate reading time

This record time in theTribunal's 15-year history is the fruit of the accelerated efforts of the ICTR officials to meet the directive of the UN Security Council to complete all first instance trials by end of the year.

It was on 20 April that the prosecutor had requested life in prison--the maximum sentence at the ICTR-- against the former Director of Cabinet in the Interior Ministry, Callixte Kalimanzira, who is accused of 1994 genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

By rendering the judgement less than two months after completion of the proceedings, Judge Byron, who in his capacity as president of the institution and who answers before the UN Security Council regarding the way the Tribunal was implementing the exit strategy, was proving to his colleagues, and to all the personnel, that this cumbersome UN machine can work faster despite flight of some top staff members for greener pastures and job security elsewhere.

Kalimanzira judgement follows that of Priest Emmanuel Rukundo, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in February, the second since the beginning of the year.

Other trials are in the deliberation phase, including that of the former Governor of Kigali, Colonel Tharcisse Renzaho, against whom the prosecutor requested on 14 February, 2008 the maximum sentence.

The delay is explained by the fact that the president of the Trial Chamber, Judge Erik Mose, one of the busiest person at the ICTR and a renowned hard worker, was also in the same phase of deliberation in another trial, that of Priest Hormisdas Nsengimana. At the same time, Judge Mose presides over other trials in progress, after having rendered last December the historical judgement in the very complex "Military I" trial.

The "Military 1" was regarded as the most important in the history of the ICTR, which involved four officers, including the former Director of Cabinet of Defence Ministry, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, who had been described by the prosecutor as "the mastermind" of the genocide. Bagosora was sentenced to life in prison.

The judgement was also awaited of the four former ministers prosecuted in the "Government II" case and against whom life in prison was requested in December 2008 as in the case of the six defendants in the "Butare" trial, including the former Minister for Family, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko-- the only woman detained by the ICTR.

Last month, the prosecution alleged that Nyiramasuhuko and her co-defendants deserved the maximum sentence.

In another group trial, "Military II", the prosecutor and the four defendants will present their closing arguments next month.

Judge Byron and his team must, however, work even harder to be able to finish within the deadlines the five trials in the evidence phase, including that of three former leaders of the former presidential party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND).

The last group trial in the history of the Tribunal has known many vicissitudes ascribable to the unending confrontations between the defence and the prosecution but also, since last year, to the illness of one of the defendants. This problematic trial, which is led by the ICTR president, risks complicating "the completion strategy".

In addition, six defendants, including a lieutenant colonel who must be tried again and two former ministers, are still waiting to appear in the next seven months before the theoretical end of the first instance trials.


© Hirondelle News Agency