The appellant was convicted by the lower court on one count of direct and public incitement to commit genocide based on public exhortations to kill ethnic Tutsis in a vehicle outfitted with a public address system on the main road between Kivumu and Kayove in Gisenyi prefecture (north-western Rwanda) late June, 1994. He was acquitted of five other counts.
In his submissions, lead defence counsel for the accused, Andrea O'Shea from the United Kingdom (UK), strongly argued six grounds of appeal alleging that the Trial Chamber erred in law and fact by accepting part of the evidence given by prosecution witnesses and at the same time rejecting the other part.
‘'Doing that amounts to ignoring the standard of proof,'' O'Shea cautioned, recalling that the case must be proved beyond reasonable doubts.
Other grounds of appeals included inefficiency in cross examination by the accused former co-counsel, Jean de Dieu Momo, and that the sentence handed down to his client was ‘'too harsh''. The counsel requested that Bikindi's sentence be reduced to between 2 and 10 years. He gave several examples, including that of two protected prosecution witnesses, AKK and AKJ, whom according to him, gave confusing dates on some events during cross examination.
In response to the defence submissions, the prosecution team made up of Froncois Nsanzuwera and Florida Kabasinga (both Rwandans) and Dior Fall from Senegal, one after another, dismissed all the defence appeal grounds.
The prosecution also asked the Chamber to overturn the sentence of 15 years imprisonment as they term it ‘'lenient'' and instead replace it with a jail term of more than 30 years or life imprisonment to go in line with the gravity of the crimes the appellant was convicted of.
Bikindi spent about five minutes singing a song calling for peace and reconciliation among the three Rwandan ethnic groups; Hutus, Tutsis and Twas when the presiding judge of the five-men Appeals Chamber, Patrick Robinson from Jamaica, granted him an opportunity to address the court if he so wished.
‘'Let us pray, let us pray, so that what happened in Rwanda will never happen again, never again,'' some of the words heard, as he was singing while judges, court officials and the public gallery were gazing at him until he finished by closing his arms.
The song, which was presented in Kinyarwanda, concluded the Appeals court hearing.
Bikindi was arrested in The Netherlands in July 2001 and transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha in March 2002.
Before the genocide, Bikindi was working at the Ministry of Youth and Association Movements of the Rwandan government and was also Director of the performance group, Irindiro Ballet. He left Rwanda on April 4, 1994 just two days before the genocide, but returned via Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) around 12 June, 1994.
© Hirondelle News Agency