Arusha, August 7, 2013 (FH) – Writing from his prison cell in Mali, former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda has released a book that paints a damning portrait of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

2 min 49Approximate reading time

Kambanda, who was given a maximum sentence of life despite pleading guilty, claims he was victim of a confidence trick by the ICTR prosecution.

The book of some 400 pages is titled in French “Rwanda face à l’apocalypse” and is published by Belgian publishing house E.M.E. “Sources d’Homme”. Kambanda, a former head of the Banques Populaires du Rwanda, was Prime Minister of the government in place during the Rwandan genocide.

After his arrest in Nairobi on July 18, 1997, Kambanda was flown to Arusha, Tanzania, where the ICTR is based. He writes that he was then installed in a “sumptuous villa”, where he stayed for  two weeks and was subjected daily to 16 hours of questioning by a prosecution team. On August 3, he was transferred to the ICTR Detention Facility. “From August 3 to 27, 1997, I stayed in my cell without ever leaving it for a single minute,” he writes. “This ordeal had physical and psychological effects from which I still suffer today.”

The next day, he was taken to Dodoma in central Tanzania accompanied by two investigators for the prosecution, Pierre Duclos and Marcel Desaulniers, ironically referred to as “my two guardian angels”. Still there was no indictment, he complains.

“From the time of my arrest to my initial appearance nearly nine months later, I remained under the exclusive responsibility of the Office of the Prosecutor, with the full knowledge of the judges,” says Kambanda.  “This despite the fact that my lawyer and organizations like Amnesty International had alerted them.” According to his book, the Registry refused to assign him the lawyer of his choice, Johan Scheers of Belgium, who was nevertheless on its list. “The person said to be my lawyer, Oliver Michael Inglis of Belgium, was in fact imposed by Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Muna,” Kambanda claims. He says that during his rare sessions with Inglis, prosecutor Pierre Duclos would sit nearby and request the minutes at the end of the meeting.

As a “hostage of the prosecution”, “in conflict with the Registry”, without proper legal assistance and with the judges “turning a blind eye”, Kambanda claims he had no choice but to plead guilty. Above all, he says, Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Muna had promised to obtain from the judges a reduction in his sentence and to relocate his family who were living at the time in Côte d’Ivoire. If the former Prime Minister is to be believed, the prosecution even put pressure on his family after they arrived in Egypt so that he not retract his confession. He claims that representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor threatened to abandon his wife and children in the desert if he withdrew his guilty plea.

“What could I do? (…) I thought and I still think that I had to concede on everything so that one day I would be able to deliver freely my own testimony, for the sake of History. That is the only reason I pleaded guilty to all charges.”

On May 1, 1998, Kambanda pleaded guilty to all six charges brought against him. However, on September 4, 1998, he was sentenced to life in jail. Feeling betrayed, Kambanda filed an appeal and stopped cooperating with the prosecution. He claims two envoys from the Office of the Prosecutor, Gilbert Morizette and France Thibodeau, went to see his family, who had just got asylum in the United States, and put new pressure on them. He claims they tried to persuade his wife to telephone him and tell him to maintain the guilty plea before the Appeals Chamber.

“This idea I rejected,” says the former Rwandan Prime Minister. “I also informed the ICTR Prosecutor that if such pressure continued to be put on my family, I would tell them to request protection from the judicial authorities of their host country. This threat put a stop to all the prosecution’s pressure on my family.”

Today he admits only the failure of his government to ensure the security of all Rwandans at that time. “As a human being, I have not committed any crime against any individual,” he writes. “I plead guilty to leading a government that was unable to protect its people, all its people, and not for any criminal act that I personally committed or ordered.” Kambanda also claims that “this government did everything that it could”.