Arusha, 23 November, 2009 (FH) - The Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has defended the judicial process and principles of law over the threat by the umbrella body of genocide survivors in Rwanda (IBUKA) to halt co-operation with the UN Tribunal following last week's two acquittals of 1994 genocide suspects.

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IBUKA on Friday held a peaceful demonstration in Kigali against what they described as "malpractices" by ICTR and threatened to stop co-operation with it.

‘'It's not the first time that an acquittal has occurred and acquittal is a normal process within the justice system,'' Roland Amoussouga, told Hirondelle Agency Monday, adding that the judges decisions are not made on the basis of vested interests.

" They are  based on due process, equity, fairness, transparency, the principles of law, evidence produced and the merit of arguments made by the parties during the judicial proceedings,'' he  said.

The ICTR spokesman defended the judges, saying they were of high professionalism and integrity. ''They are above all independent. It will be wrong for anyone to attack the integrity of the ICTR Judicial process without due regard to the work that is being done,'' he stressed.

Amoussouga explained that an acquittal could occur anywhere, including Rwanda. ‘'One may understand the frustrations of some people, but this should not be the ground for undermining the integrity of the judicial process and for preventing justice from being rendered to all the victims, suspects, accused persons and the mankind,'' he underscored.

"We are all against ICTR's decisions. Releasing genocide perpetrators is outright denial of genocide, releasing a person like (Protais) Zigiranyirazo,  (Emmanuel) Bagambiki, Andre Ntagerura, Ignace Bagilishema, Gen Gratien Kabirigi and others, proves injustice and we are against this, we are protesting this," New Times quoted a demonstrator chanting from a loudspeaker on Friday.

Theodore Simburudari, IBUKA president, was quoted by New Times to have said that his association was halting its cooperation with ICTR.

On November 16, the Appeals chamber reversed 20-year sentence imposed on Protais Zigiranyirazo, brother-in-law of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, and instead acquitted him of 1994 genocide charges. The Chamber, presided by the American judge Theodor Meron, ordered an immediate release of Zigiranyirazo.

The upper chamber traced to errors by the lower court when sentencing the suspect in December 2008.

The ICTR lower court ordered immediate release of former head of College Christ-Roi, Father Hormisdas Nsengimana, 55, after finding him not guilty of 1994 genocide, on November 17.

In reaching its conclusions, the Chamber stated that it had assessed all the evidence of the prosecution. ‘'They do not establish Nsengimana's criminal responsibility or impact the Chamber's findings,'' stressed presiding judge Erik Mose from Norway.


© Hirondelle News Agency