The New Times (Kigali)

12 February 2013

Rwandans Rally Against ICTR Acquittals

Photo: SteveRwanda/Wikipedia
Kigali, Rwanda (file photo).

Hundreds of Rwandans yesterday took to the street to express their anger against recent decisions by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), to overturn the guilty convictions of two former cabinet ministers.

The demonstration came days after some Genocide convicts who served under the 'genocidal' regime for the better part of their 100-day blood-soaked realm also raised concerns.

The demonstration was organised by IBUKA, an umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors' associations.

The two ministers whose 30-year sentences were overturned are Justin Mugenzi who headed the trade docket and Prosper Mugiraneza, the former minister of public service.

Carrying placards, with messages critical of ICTR's performance, the demonstrators who had assembled at Gishushu Road junction on Airport Road, marched to the liaison office of the ICTR in Remera, Kigali where they voiced their frustrations.

The march lasted 40 minutes.

"Making the criminals happy is like committing suicide," said 62-year-old Cécile Ngwinondebe, who braved the afternoon rain to march with others.

An ICTR Trial Chamber had on September 30, 2011, found both men guilty of conspiracy to commit genocide and direct public incitement to commit genocide and sentenced them to 30 years in jail each.

Ngwinondebe, who lost her four children, a husband, parents, brothers, and in-laws during the Genocide, said she had no doubt that both Mugenzi and Mugiraneza were Genocide criminals because they incited people to kill.

She said she knew Mugenzi as one of the people who started Parti Liberal (PL) political party to fight against former President Juvenal Habyarimana but he later divided the party and remained on his side of PL-Power which played a role in the Genocide against the Tutsi.

The survivor said that Mugenzi would harass people who didn't join the PL-Power faction.

"His actions showed that he was a killer," she said.

As for Mugiraneza, Ngwinondebe said he used to participate in secret meetings in Rwandan villages where propaganda to sensitise the killers would take place.

The survivor remained astonished after the end of the protest and kept staring at the ICTR office buildings through an entrance that was tightly guarded by both the court's own security guards and the Rwandan National Police.

"I am not feeling well right now, I am not impressed. I wish we were able to cross into this building," she said.

Ibuka has constantly condemned the ICTR Appeals Chamber decisions, especially the chamber's president, Judge Theodor Meron.

Ibuka officials say they don't understand how the judge has even acquitted people like Protais Zigiranyirazo who they say is one of the planners of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

In his message on behalf of the protesters in front of the court's office in Kigali, Ibuka president Prof. Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, described the acquittals as a "nail in the coffin of the victims of the Genocide, and a smack in the face for survivors of the Genocide."

Disappointed judge

"The ICTR has delivered nothing for either the victims or the survivors of the Genocide, delivering no compensation for the horrific atrocities committed during the Genocide planned and perpetrated by the Government of which Mugenzi and Mugiraneza were indisputably members," he said.

Currently operating at a biannual budget of nearly $250 million, the ICTR was established in 1994 to prosecute persons responsible for Genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda or in neighbouring States between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.

The court has completed 72 cases with 10 of them being acquittals, while 17 of them are pending appeals. It is slated to close down in 2014.

A former senior official at the ICTR told the UK Telegraph, last week, that he was "increasingly disappointed" at trials that were "dragging on" and judges were handing out "unbelievably low sentences for convictions of the gravest of crimes".

"The expense is an issue, and the results of that spending are even more disturbing," said Tim Gallimore, who sat at the heart of the tribunal's operations as its chief spokesman between 2004 and 2008.

"The money would have been better spent on restitution and financial reparations to the Genocide survivors, to at least make it easier for them to cope with the trauma inflicted on them by the perpetrators who are being pampered by the ICTR.

The two ministers join the pack of other cabinet ministers and high profile officials who have since been acquitted by the Tanzania-based tribunal, igniting anger not only from Genocide survivors, but also Rwandans in general, including the people formerly subordinate to them.

So far, six former ministers who served on the interim government, led by Jean Kambanda, and who were hand-picked by a clique of elite politicians well known for their hatred for the Tutsi, have been acquitted, despite a detailed guilty plea entered by Kambanda on the role of his government in the Genocide.

The recent ruling, analysts say, means the ICTR has now spent £1 billion, to put just 43 people permanently behind bars.

What they say about the ICTR acquittals

As told to Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti.

This protest march against the ICTR decision is significant. We shouldn't keep quiet as Rwandans. Personally, I am among the people who knew well Mugenzi. When he went for peace negotiations in Arusha he came back and spread bad news that the agreement signed was only papers covering dead dogs. We wondered how the ICTR released him and his colleague without considering all the facts. MP Charles Kamanda.

You can't release people who planned genocide. What would have been done if ICTR had been given to judge all genocidaires? All would have been acquitted and the ICTR would have concluded that no genocide ever happened in Rwanda. Joseph Rukeribuga, SFB student.

We are protesting against people who seem to ignore what happened in 1994. Setting those people free shows carelessness and ignorance. ICTR was established to help Rwanda but it has been betraying us instead. We are here to demonstrate against that. Jaqueline Gatali, from Gasabo district.

What is clear is that what ICTR did is the worst decision and if we don't protest against it, we would appear like we agreed with their decision. Antoine Mugunga from Remera, Gasabo district.

We, ordinary people, have to voice our displeasure where intellectuals fail. ICTR should be condemned by the whole world. Emmanuel Karamba, from Remera in Gasabo district.

ICTR was wrong to release the two men. Any person would wonder how people whose 30-year sentences were overturned to nothing. We want to express our anger against imbalance judgment. Scovia Mwiza from Kanombe sector in Kicukiro district.

Mugenzi was a leader of PL, (Liberal Party) I now belong to. We know how he used to disseminate falsehoods to rally Hutu militias. He is on the top of the list and he was with Prosper Mugirineza. Setting them free is very unfortnatewe are totally against it. Fanette Uwamaliya, from Nyakabanda, Nyarugenge.

I was two years old when the Genocide took place. However, I know much of it through history, I have heard much about Genocide suspects and can't ignore that they are people who planned and executed it. The story of the two is known and the court ignored the facts deliberately. Rwandans shouldn't therefore hold their hands and leave things like that. Odile Umutesi, student.

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InFocus

Rwandans Rally Against Tribunal Acquittals

Kigali, Rwanda (file photo).

Hundreds took to the street to express their dismay against recent decisions by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to overturn the guilty ... Read more »