Arusha, March 29, 2011(FH) - The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Tuesday heard the appeal in the case of former Rwandan military officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ephrem Setako with the prosecution asking for the maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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The former Army officer, who was the head of the division of legal affairs in the Ministry of Defence during the 1994 genocide, was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment after he was found guilty of genocide, extermination as a crime against humanity and violence to life as a war crime on February 25, 2010.

He was specifically found responsible for the killing of 30 to 40 Tutsis at Mukamira military camp in Ruhengeri prefecture, Northern Rwanda   on April 25, 1994 and the death of around 10 others on May 1.

‘'The Trial  Chamber erred for the failure to consider the central and primary role of the appellant in ordering killings at Mukamira military camp and even transporting some victims to the camp ,'' American Prosecution Counsel, Deborah Wilkinson told the Appeals Chamber presided by Judge Patrick Robinson.

The Attorney also charged that the Trial Chamber should have also convicted the appellant of murder as war crime for the massacres at the military camp but that fact was never considered.

‘'Setako breached his position as senior advisor of legal affairs in the ministry of defence during the war and  abused it. We ask the Chamber to grant our appeal grounds and raise the sentence to life imprisonment,'' she pleaded.      

The defence led by Setako's lead Counsel, American Professor Lennox Hinds alleged that its client had no authority over soldiers at Mukamira camp to kill Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.

‘'Setako had no command responsibility at Mukamira camp and  at  the absence of de jure or de facto authorities at Mukamira camp. Then  the findings of the Trial Chamber that my client was guilty was unreasonable,'' said Professor Hinds.

He also argued that the Trial Chamber erred to convict his client depending on the evidence of only two prosecution witnesses whom he claimed gave contradictory evidence and dismissed on the other hand evidence given by the four defence witnesses.

‘'The Trial Chamber erred by relying upon two prosecution witness and failed to exercise degree of cautions in weighing the evidence adduced,'' Professor Hinds said.

The other grounds of appeals as advanced by defence include amendment of the indictment three years after initial appearance, denying his client of being tried without undue delay, inconsistence on the prosecution witness and the prosecution  failed to prove beyond reasonable doubts allegations against the appellant.

Addressing the Appeals Chamber, Lt. Col. Setako said: "I have confidence in your wisdom. You will use your impartiality to render judgment which will reflect the truth on the field. Most of crimes were committed by persons whom I did not know.''     

The appellant added that the authority at Mukamira camp never knew of the killings he was convicted of.

Lt. Col. Setako hailed from Nkuli commune in Ruhengeri prefecture, northern Rwanda. He was arrested in February 2004 in the Netherland and his trial commenced on August 25 2008 and closed on June 26, 2009 after 60 days of trial.


© Hirondelle News Agency