Arusha, April 09, 2014 (FH) – The record of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) may be controversial, but twenty years on, it has nevertheless tried most members of the Hutu interim government that presided over the genocide, including Prime Minister Jean Kambanda.

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Former ICTR spokesman Roland Amoussouga says the fact the Tribunal has brought such high level people to justice shows that “no one is above the law”. In February ICTR Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow also hailed “a process which has seen the accountability of the senior perpetrators of the genocide, the expansion of the jurisprudence of international criminal justice and the acceptability of that system as part of the global architecture of accountability”. French sociologist André Guichaoua, who testified as an expert witness in several ICTR trials, agrees. “The prosecution, judges and staff have tried the main architects of the genocide, established jurisprudence and set standards in terms of truth and justice,” he said in a December 2013 interview with Hirondelle. “And in its wake, other situations, other massacres on the African continent or elsewhere have given rise to international criminal investigations.” Guichaoua said that was the most important thing, even if “after nearly 20 years, the quality and quantity of the ICTR’s legacy may give rise to some reservations”. The interim government, which took over on April 9, 1994, was composed of President Théodore Sindikubwabo, Prime Minister Jean Kambanda and 19 ministers. The interim President is thought to have died in exile in Zaire (now DRC) and there is not known to be any ICTR indictment against him. Should he still be alive, there are good grounds to believe he would be at the top of the list of wanted fugitives. Indeed, his name appears in nearly all the indictments, especially in relation to a speech he gave on April 19, 1994 at the investiture of new Butare prefect Sylvain Nsabimana. “To work”

According to several experts including Guichaoua, Sindikubwabo’s speech set alight Butare, which had so far been relatively spared from the massacres. It was delivered in the Rwandan language Kinyarwanda, with almost all the members of the interim government present. In this speech there is frequent use of the word “gukora”, which means “to work” in Kinyarwanda. It signified, according to many experts, “to kill Tutsis”. Jean Kambanda is currently in jail in Mali. He was arrested in Kenya on July 18, 1997, and on May 1, 1998, the former Prime Minister pleaded guilty to all six charges brought against him, including genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Despite his guilty plea, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on September 4, 1998. According to the judgment, “Jean Kambanda acknowledges that following numerous meetings of the Council of Ministers between 8 April 1994 and 17 July 1994, he as Prime Minister, instigated, aided and abetted the Prefets, Bourgmestres, and members of the population to commit massacres and killings of civilians, in particular Tutsi and moderate Hutu”. It also says that “between 24 April 1994 and 17 July 1994, Jean Kambanda and Ministers of his Government visited several prefectures, such as Butare, Gitarama, Gikongoro, Gisenyi and Kibuye to incite and encourage the population to commit these massacres including by congratulating the people who had committed these killings”. Disappointed not to have got a reduced sentence, Kambanda appealed. However, the judgment and sentence were confirmed. Viewed as a traitor by his former ministers, Kambanda now claims he was victim of a confidence trick by his lawyer Oliver Michael Inglis and the Deputy Prosecutor at the time, Bernard Muna of Cameroon. In his book, titled in French “Rwanda face à l’apocalypse” and published last year, Kambanda retracts his 1998 guilty plea, admitting only his government’s failure to ensure the security of all Rwandans. “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.” One woman indicted

As well as the former Prime Minister, 13 other members of the interim government have appeared before the ICTR, of whom three have had convictions confirmed, six have been acquitted and four are still on appeal. Those whose convictions have been confirmed are former Information Minister Eliézer Niyitegeka, former Higher Education Minister Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda and former Finance Minister Emmanuel Ndindabahizi. Those acquitted include ex-Trade Minister Justin Mugenzi, who claims his acquittal proves that “the interim government neither prepared nor supervised the genocide”. Former Family Affairs Minister Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the only woman to be indicted by the ICTR and the first woman to be tried for genocide before an international court, is one of the four who are still on appeal. However the Tribunal, which is due to close its doors at the end of this year, has still not managed to lay hands on ex-Defence Minister Augustin Bizimana. Bizimana is the only person of his rank figuring on the list of nine wanted indictees who are still on the run. Some sources say he died in Congo-Brazzaville, but the ICTR Prosecutor contests this. As for the Rwandan courts, they have tried former Justice Minister Agnès Ntamabyariro and sentenced her to life. Testifying at the ICTR in 2006 as a defence witness for Mugenzi, she claimed she was kidnapped by the Rwandan army in Zambia in 1997. The four remaining ministers are still free, living notably in Europe. They are not sought by the ICTR, but sources in Kigali say Rwanda has issued arrest warrants for them. ER/ JC