Arusha, November 16, 2009 (FH) - The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Monday reversed the 20-year sentence imposed on Protais Zigiranyirazo, brother-in-law of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, and instead acquitted him of 1994 genocide charges.

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The Appeals Chamber, presided by American Theodor Meron, ordered an immediate release of Zigiranyirazo, popularly known as ‘'Mr Z'' in Rwanda, reports Hirondelle Agency.

Mr ‘'Z'' was an influential leader during the reign of Habyarimana and an alleged inner member of Akazu, a Hutu-power movement that is suspected to have organized the 1994 genocide.

The upper chamber traced to serious errors committed by the lower court when sentencing the suspect in December 2008 without making careful analyses of the very grave crimes ‘'Mr Z'' was charged with.

‘'Instead, the Trial Judgement misstated the principles of law governing the distribution of burden of proof with regards to alibi and seriously erred in its handling of the evidence,' underlined Judge Meron.

‘'The court reverses his[ Zigiranyirazo's] convictions for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity for participating in the massacre on 8 April 1994 at Kesho Hill in Gisenyi Prefecture and for aiding and abetting genocide on 12 and 17 April 1994 in connection with the killings at the Kiyovu Roadblock in Kigali,'' ordered the Judge, adding:  Zigiranyirazo's resulting convictions relating to Kesho Hill and Kiyovu Roadblock violated the most basic and fundamental principles of justice and the Appeals Chamber had no choice, but to reverse Zigiranyirazo's conviction.

Since its establishment in November 1994, ICTR has convicted 39 persons, including seven acquittals.

The UN has set a deadline of December 2010 to complete all first instance trials.


© Hirondelle News Agency