ICTR Roundup

by Kevin Jon Heller

I’ve fallen behind in my Rwanda blogging. Here are some of the recent highlights — or lowlights, depending on your perspective:

  • The ICTR announced that it will miss its 2008 deadline for completing its trial phase. According to the Tribunal’s spokesman, at least one trial will not be finished by the end of the year. The ICTR intends to refer the case to Rwanda.
  • The ICTR publicly praised Rwanda’s gacaca courts: “Gacaca courts have done a lot of tremendous work. They have helped in bringing justice and reconciliation in Rwanda because they are based on Rwandan tradition.” Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. As I discuss in my recent review essay of Mark Drumbl’s excellent Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law, gacaca courts are unfair, have lost whatever social legitimacy they might have initially possessed, and bear no resemblance to traditional Rwandan dispute-resolution mechanisms.
  • In related news, Rwanda intends to continue to use gacaca courts in 2008, despite the fact that their legal mandate ended on December 31, 2007. Even worse, Rwanda wants the gacaca courts to begin trying Category 1 cases, those involving the planning or organizing of killings. Such serious crimes were formerly the province of Rwanda’s ordinary criminal courts — themselves troubled, but certainly more fair than the gacaca courts.
  • Rwanda is angry with the ICTR for referring Wenceslas Munyeshyaka and Laurent Bucyibaruta to France for prosecution. Rwanda wants the two men extradited instead. The ICTR’s decision should come as little surprise, however, given that a Rwandan military tribunal has already sentenced Munyeshyaka in absentia to life imprisonment.
  • Rwanda is also angry at a French appellate court for refusing to extradite, on procedural grounds, Dominique Ntawukuriryayo to the ICTR. A lower court had previously approved the extradition. Ntawukuriryayo’s case will now return to the lower court for reconsideration.
  • In an important legal first, the ICTR sentenced a prosecution witness to nine months imprisonment for committing perjury during the trial of Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, who is serving two life sentences for his role in the 1994 genocide. No word as to whether the conviction will affect Kamuhanda’s sentences, which were upheld by the Appeals Chamber in 1995.
  • An ICTR investigator working as part of Father Emmanuel Rukundo’s defense team has been detained by the Rwandan government for the past six months for allegedly bribing witnesses and “trivializing” the 1994 genocide. Although such detention is clearly inconsistent with Article 29 of the ICTR Statute’s immunity provisions, the ICTR has ignored repeated defense requests to intervene on the investigator’s behalf.
  • The human-rights NGO African Rights has alleged that an ICTR employee who works in the documentation center was himself involved in the 1994 genocide. African Rights has also accused the employee of intimidating witnesses into refusing to testify against Father Hormisdas Nsengimana, currently on trial at the ICTR.

All kinds of interesting developments! More soon.


One Response

  1. Brilliant list of links, thanks very much for this. Do you have any comments on Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and their role as a complement or alternative to judicial institutions?

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