Arusha, June 15, 2010 (FH) - Genocide convict Father Emmanuel Rukundo told the Appeals Court of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday that his trial had been unfair.

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"I am not the monster the Prosecutor described, I am not the genocide perpetrator that the lower court judges made me out to be in the eyes of the world," the catholic priest protested before the Appeals Chamber.

Trial Chamber II of the UN Tribunal convicted this former Military Chaplain on February 27, 2009 of genocide, extermination and murder of people who had sought refuge at St. Joseph's College and St. Leon Seminary in Gitarama area, central Rwanda. He was sentenced to 25 years in jail and immediately lodged an appeal.

Rukundo was found to have played an integral role on four occasions in abduction and killing of the Tutsi refugees. The Trial Chamber notably held that there was clear evidence that Rukundo directed the killings of Tutsi civilians in Gitarama area during the 1994 genocide.

But Rukundo protested his innocence. "Human justice is not always just," he told the Appeals Court. "Sometimes it is unfair and arbitrary."

"There is nothing worse for an innocent than to have to defend himself," he continued, saying he hoped that "truth would be restored".

For her part, Defence Counsel Aicha Conde rejected all the accusations against her client, saying they were "total fabrications, made up from beginning to end".

She said the lower court had failed to take account of contradictions in the testimonies of prosecution witnesses. "The Chamber tried to compensate for the Prosecutor's shortcomings, to come to his rescue," she said, and called for an acquittal.   

Gambian prosecutor Ousman Jammeh called, on the other hand, for the Appeals Court to increase Rukundo's sentence to the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

"We are asking you to reverse the decision and to impose the appropriate sentence, which is imprisonment for the remainder of his life," he said, invoking "the gravity of the offences".

The date of the Appeals judgment will be announced later.

Rukundo was arrested in Switzerland in July 2001 and transferred to the ICTR detention centre two months later.  


© Hirondelle News Agency