Arusha, March 22, 2012 (FH) –The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has denied the request by two leading victims’ rights groups to hear them through presentation of  submissions on certain sentences imposed by trial court.

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 The two groups, Rwandan survivors' group IBUKA and British NGO Survivors' Fund had wanted to be heard in the appeals case for four former senior army officers, including chief of staff Augustin Bizimungu and that of the Gendarmerie Augustin Ndindiliyimana, who were sentenced by trial court on May 17, 2011.

 “The Appeals Chamber is not satisfied that granting IBUKA and SURF leave to submit their proposed amicus curie (friends of court) brief is necessary for the proper determination of the prosecution’s sentencing appeal,” reads part of the Chamber’s decision dated April 20, 2012.

It considered that the request did not address any question of law raised in the prosecution’s sentencing appeal, rather advanced arguments concerning the participation of victims in the sentencing process that were not at issue in the petition.

According to the ruling, the request also sought to introduce new information that was not before the Trial Chamber, but to address same issues already raised by prosecution in its appeal, particularly relating to assessment of gravity of crimes in imposing allegedly “inadequate sentences.”

“The Appeals Chamber observes that submissions that would address essentially the same issues already raised by a party or submissions on matters beyond the scope of the issues on appeal do not tend to advance (its) consideration of the case,” it said. The two generals were convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, whereas ex-Commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion, Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and member of the unit Captain Innocent Sagahutu, were found guilty of crime against humanity and war crimes.

Bizimungu was jailed 30 years, while Ndindiliyimana was sentenced to time served and instantly released. Nzuwonemeye and Sagahutu received 20 years custodian punishment each.

In their application, Ibuka and Survivors' Fund had stated that 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.

The ICTR prosecution supported the request, asserting that notwithstanding the oral testimony of some victims who testified as witnesses, the victims’ collective voice, as such, was lacking during both the trial process and in the sentencing part of the judgment.

However, the convicts had opposed to the application, alleging it was brought in bad faith as both IBUKA and SURF were not impartial and could not demonstrate the necessary competence they had to assist the Chamber and failed to show that they represented victims of crimes for which convictions were entered. FK/NI/GF