5 February 2013

Rwanda: 'Expect More Acquittals,' Ngoga Warns

Photo: This Day
Symbol of justice.

After the acquittal of Prosper Mugiraneza and Justin Mugenzi, two former ministers of the Genocidal regime, by the appeals chamber of the ICTR on Monday, prosecutor general Martin Ngoga has said that this is an extremely disappointing decision.

Ngoga said that the recent decisions of the appeals chamber have tended to adopt a simplistic treatment of facts and are creating a trend of exonerating political leadership from responsibility in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis. "There is reason to believe that this trend will continue," he remarked.

Prosecutor Ngoga observed that there are huge discrepancies in decisions between the trial and appeals chambers in a number of cases including Monday's ruling, which raises serious questions.

"The difference between decisions of the two chambers should not be so big; when you quash a sentence of 30 years, it means that the judges who rendered that sentence, in the opinion of the appeals judge, doesn't know what he was doing, or else it's the appeals judge," Ngoga said, adding that ICTR's recent decision doesn't fit in the ordinary professional disagreements that judges are used to, where the appeals chambers end up with a small reduction of sentence, or quashing some counts. "We see incompetence and indifference in that."

"Total disagreement between the judges, not just in one case but in a series of them, is not helping us. Especially those of us who are looking at International Tribunal as one that will leave records not only for the purposes of justice that we expect them to dispense, but also for academic purposes and for future generations. How is it going to help when its jurisdiction or its jurisprudence is left in tatters?" Ngoga asked.

The prosecutor general further said that he will not be surprised when other cabinet ministers and high officials in pending appeals are also acquitted. That, he said, will seriously damage the tribunal's reputation.

"It is sad that, despite the generally important role the ICTR has played in post-genocide Rwanda's justice, some of its decisions spoil its legacy. They are systematically dismantling their image," Ngoga pointed out.

He also expressed regret that there is no possibility to take action against the ICTR's decisions. "We will not stop telling them our truth. As all Rwandans who think that the country deserves justice after the 1994 Genocide, this is gross negligence and irresponsibility on the ICTR's side."

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