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17.08.07 - ICTR/WITNESSES - THE FIRST FALSE TESTIMONY CASE LANDS BEFORE THE ICTR

The Hague, 17 August 2007 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) of which all the parties have denounced perjury for the last 10 years, charges sometimes referred to in judgments, has for the first time indicted a witness for false testimony.   

2 min 56Approximate reading time
On last Friday, a Rwandan, nicknamed GAA for safety reasons, appeared before the ICTR to face charges of false testimony and contempt of the tribunal. He pleaded guilty to the first count of the indictment of false testimony but pleaded not guilty to the other charges of contempt of the tribunal and attempt to commit acts punishable as contempt of the tribunal. He will be tried in Arusha.   The false testimony in question relates to the testimony that he had given at the time of the appeal trial in 2005 of the former Minister of Higher Education Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda in which he retracted the statement for the prosecution that he had given at the time of the first instance trial in 2001.   According to the indictment, witness GAA would have said to another person that he received a bribe from people close to Kamuhanda in exchange of this false testimony in appeal and, according to the prosecutor, that would constitute contempt to the tribunal.   However, article 77 (a) of the rules of evidence and procedure of the ICTR ,which reprimands contempt of the tribunal, and more particularly the subparagraph (iv), which is at the basis of the charges, organizes the charges of the corrupter and not of the corrupted. If one can reasonably accept an extension of the application of article 77, this gap of the text is characteristic of the way in which it was written and that of which it was used, in particular, before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).   Indeed, the article has much evolved since its first version, being increasingly precise in the enumeration of the reprehensible behaviours that characterize the contempt of the tribunal. Therefore, the judges have repeated on many occasions that the punishable acts of article 77 constituted only an illustration of the possible behaviours of interference of the administration of justice.                                                                                           Will the corrupters be charged?   The four other counts of the indictment against GAA charge him of having attempted to suborn false testimony by offering a bribe or otherwise interfering with witnesses. The attempt is punishable on the basis of article 77 (b) of the rules.   According to the indictment, all the people approached by GAA, sometimes before his testimony before the appeals chamber sometimes afterwards, were witnesses for the prosecution in the first instance trial of which he would have required, in exchange of a bribe, to retract as he had himself the intention of doing.   Almost all were protected witnesses whom the ICTR had granted pseudonyms. However, that did not prevent the defendant and the corrupters to discover their identity. Almost all were survivors of the massacres of Gikomero (Central Rwanda). It seems that none succumbed to the corruption.   The suspicions of subornation of witnesses, like false testimonies, are not rare, but it is the first time that someone is indicted. It is following an investigation entrusted to an American lawyer who is not a staff member of the ICTR that the Prosecutor could build and deliver the indictment against GAA.   Two former members of the ICTR victims and the witnesses support section have been also investigated as well as other suspicious events in another case, but nothing is mentioned in the indictment on that subject.   In the Simon Bikindi case, a famous musician, the trial chamber had requested in February 2007 that the Registrar investigate a defence counsel in which it concluded that the allegations of subornation were without merit.   The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has had three cases for subornation of witnesses but none have led to a conviction. A lawyer, Milan Vujin, in the Tadic case, convicted for other contempt reasons, was prosecuted with another and his client (Branislav Avramovic and Milan Simic in the Simic et al. case) and a third party in the proceedings (Beqe Beqaj in the Limaj et al. case).   If corruption of witnesses has not ultimately resulted in a conviction, the other modes of witness interference, also regarded as contempt to the tribunal (such as pressure, threats and intimidation) have sometimes been sanctioned by heavy sentences including imprisonment.   After a trial chamber has examined the guilty plea by GAA for false testimony, it will decide the sentence according to the aggravating and mitigating circumstances which will have been argued. Moreover, the Registrar will set a date to start the trial on the five counts to which he accused pleaded not guilty.   CV/MM/AT © Hirondelle News Agency
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