Arusha, 28 September, 2009 (FH) - On Monday, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) heard the appeals from both the prosecution and the defence in the genocide case against Protais Zigiranyirazo, former brother-in-law of Rwandan President, the late Juvenal Habyarimana. Zigiranyirazo was jailed to a concurrent sentence of 20 years imprisonment last year.

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In its judgment rendered on December 18, 2008, the Trial Chamber convicted the appellant to 20 years for genocide and another 20 years for extermination for the massacres which took place at Kesho Hill in Gisenyi prefecture, north Rwanda. He was also given 15 years jail for his activities in relation to Kiyovu road block in Kigali city, where several ethnic Tutsis were massacred in April 1994.

The defence which was the first to present its submission, led by the accused's lead defence counsel, John Philpot, submitted 17 grounds of appeal, challenging the conviction and the sentences specifically for the Trial Chambers findings at Kesho Hill and Kiyovu road block.

‘'He was not present at Kiyovu and even Kiyovu road block itself did not exist,'' charged the lead counsel, insisting that the Trial Chamber has ‘' misapprehended the defence of alibi presented after its site visit in November, 2008.

According to the defence, the site visit demonstrated that it was not possible for the accused to have been in Kanombe, where the mourning of the late president ,Habyarimana was taking place at 8.00 am on April 8, 1994, and then found at Kesho Hill two hours later, where the massacres took place.

However, the prosecution led by Canadian Linda Bianchi and Swedish Christine Graham, in separate response maintained that the Trial Chamber was not wrong in its findings as they were supported by various credible witnesses.

Meanwhile, the prosecution strongly argued before the Appeals Chamber that the Trial Chamber failed, among other things, in determining the right sentence for the appellant as he was convicted for genocide and extermination, and had no mitigating factors.

‘'He's actions victimized several Tutsis, over a 1,000 were brutally murdered on April 8, 1994,'' remarked  counsel Graham, adding Mr Zigiranyirazo was essential for the final successful missions of killing Tutsis at Kesho Hill.

While prosecution asked for the Appeals Chamber to grant an appropriate sentence of life imprisonment, the defences on its side pleaded for vacating the convictions and acquit the appellant on all counts or reduce the sentence substantially.

The five-man Appeals Chamber, led by its President Judge Theodor Meron from the United States, has closed the hearing.

The Appeals Chamber will tomorrow hear the appeal of Simeon Nshamihigo, former Deputy Prosecutor Cyangungu, who has challenged his life sentence by the lower court last year.


© Hirondelle News Agency