Five arrested for bribing, coercing witnesses in case of ICTR convict

Prosecutor General Mutangana together with MICT Prosecutor, Dr Serge Brammetz, brief the media in Kigali during a past event. File.

Five people have been arrested in Rwanda for using bribery and coercion to secure reversal of witness testimonies in a case of a Genocide mastermind convicted by a UN tribunal.

The genocidaire whose conviction - upheld by an Appeals Chamber - the suspects were trying to reverse, was Augustin Ngirabatware.

Ngirabatware is a former Minister of Planning in the genocidal government, who is serving a 30-year prison sentence rendered by the Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT).

On first instance, he had been sentenced to 35 years by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

The five suspects, all Rwandan, were arrested on an indictment issued by the Chief Prosecutor of MICT, which took over the work of ICTR.

The UN prosecutor ordered for their arrest after he got information that they were interfering with administration of justice, according to a statement.

The five suspects have been identified as; Maximilien Turinabo, Anselme Nzabonimpa, Jean de Dieu Ndagijimana, Marie Rose Fatuma and Dick Prudence Munyeshuli.

“The alleged aim of these efforts (by the five suspects) was to secure the reversal of Augustin Ngirabatware’s conviction by the ICTR, as affirmed by the Mechanism’s Appeals Chamber,” reads a statement by the Mechanism Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz.

The five accused will be transferred to the seat of the Mechanism in Arusha, Tanzania for trial.

“The arrest warrants were issued by the Judge of the Mechanism after confirmation on 24 August 2018 of an indictment filed by the Mechanism Office of the Prosecutor,” reads part of the statement.

According to the statement, the indictment was kept under seal pending the successful arrest of the accused, “and has been made public with redactions to protect witnesses”.

Ngirabatware was convicted for direct and public incitement to commit genocide, instigating genocide and aiding and abetting genocide.

The five face charges of contempt of court, incitement to commit contempt and knowing violation of court orders and interfering with the administration of justice, according to the statement.

The Prosecutor says that the suspects, directly and through others, offered bribes and exerted pressure to influence the evidence of protected witnesses in the Ngirabatware case.

“The Office of the Prosecutor further alleges that Dick Prudence Munyeshuli and Maximilien Turinabo disclosed protected information regarding protected witnesses in knowing violation of protective measures ordered by the ICTR and Mechanism,” it goes on.

Reacting to the arrests, Brammertz thanked the Rwandan authorities for “ promptly executing the Mechanism arrest warrants and apprehending the five accused.”

“We are fully committed to safeguarding the integrity of all proceedings before the Mechanism, ICTR and ICTY, in particular by ensuring the protection of witnesses.

The confirmation of our indictment and arrests of the five accused this week are visible demonstrations of that commitment,” he added.

When contacted, Prosecutor General Jean Bosco Mutangana said the arrests were within the framework of their duty to execute the arrests as requested by the UN court’s prosecutor.

The UN Tribunal for Rwanda was set up to try masterminds of the Genocide against the Tutsi, in which over a million people were killed.

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