Arusha, February 1, 2012 (FH) -Two leading victims' rights groups have asked the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to hear them, saying certain sentences imposed by the trial court are "grossly inadequate".

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Rwandan survivors' group Ibuka and British NGO Survivors' Fund are asking to be heard  as amicus curie (friends of the court) in the case of Rwandan former military leaders sentenced by the trial court on May 17, 2011.

The convicts concerned are: former army chief of staff Augustin Bizimungu (sentenced to 30 years in jail); former head of the Gendarmerie Augustin Ndindiliyimana (sentenced to time served and immediately released); former Commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye (20 years); and Reconnaissance Battalion squad commander Innocent Sagahutu (20 years).

"The sentences imposed by the Trial Chamber do not further the primary sentencing goals of deterrence and retribution, tolerate impunity among those responsible for committing the gravest crimes, and demean the dignity of victims and survivors," reads part of the application, obtained by Hirondelle on Wednesday.

The two organizations say that as representatives of Rwandan genocide victims, they seek only to have a voice so that the Tribunal could fashion sentences that better reflect its mission of preventing impunity and its commitment of doing justice to the victims' memory.

Regrettably, they add, no victims were heard during the sentencing phase, whereas they could have assisted the Chamber in better evaluating the gravity of the offenders' conduct.

The two groups say they have been forced to seek audience in the pending appeal after an Appeals Court decision which "drastically" reduced sentences on Colonel Theoneste Bagosora and Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva.

On December 14, 2011, the Chamber reduced life sentences imposed on Bagosora and Nsengiyumva to 35 and 15 years respectively. Nsengiyumva was released, as he had already served 15 years in preventive detention.


© Hirondelle News Agency