AN APPEALS chamber at the ICTR on February 11 yet again did the unthinkable.
Theodor Meron, one of the most controversial personalities in international justice circles, reprehensibly absolved Gen. Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the man who was at the helm of the dreaded gendarmerie during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, of any responsibility in the massacres that claimed the lives of more than a million of our people.
He also ordered for the immediate release of another former commander and reduced the sentence for the third defendant in the Military II trial.
Notably, all these men had been found guilty in the lower chamber and given varying sentences.
Yet the latest decisions by the appeals bench are a continuation of an uncomfortable pattern of acquittals or significantly downgraded sentences involving former senior-ranking political and military leaders who presided over the Genocide.
Meron is not unknown to controversies in the corridors of justice. Last year, he was the subject of a leaked letter in which he was accused by a former official of the ICTY of compromising the independence and impartiality of fellow judges resulting in the acquittals of Croatian generals and Serbian officials.
No investigation was ever conducted in light of these serious allegations which came up in the wake of a series of earlier high-level ICTR acquittals he’s heavily linked to.
In Rwanda, the ICTR generally represents a huge disappointment in the international community vis-à-vis holding accountable the men and women that plunged this country into the abyss.
Yet Judge Meron and his appeals chamber’s decisions represent a new depth for impunity even by ICTR standards.
It’s hard to believe what has happened in Arusha over the last 19 years. How can one explain the fact that Jean Kambanda, the Genocide prime minister who admitted guilty and explained how his government planned the pogrom, presided over the killings without the involvement of almost everyone else in his extremist cabinet and with minimal or no direct involvement of senior army and police officers?
Equally scandalous is the way the Meron-led Appeals Chamber has overturned so many convictions delivered by other judges at the same court, without sound reasons.
Furthermore, that these regrettable decisions were announced at a time Rwanda is marking 20 years after the Genocide leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
These decisions are nothing more than blatant mockery of Genocide victims and international legal system. Indeed to survivors, far from being a symbol of hope, justice and healing, the ICTR and Judge Meron have consistently opened up old wounds and faithfully served the interests of perpetrators and Genocide deniers.