Genocide convict Ngirabatware’s witness bribery case gets underway at UN Court

Augustin Ngirabatware during a court hearing. Photo: Courtesy.

The International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals will on Thursday hear a case in which a convict of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is accused of contempt of court, through bribing witnesses.

Augustin Ngirabatware was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and sentenced to 35 years in prison, which was later reduced to 30 years on appeal.

He was the minister of planning in the genocidal regime that was led by another convict of the UN Court, Jean Kambanda.

Ngirabatware will be back in court to face two charges; contempt of court and incitement to commit contempt of the ICTR, which closed its doors in 2015 and was replaced by the Mechanism.

The indictment against Ngirabatware was confirmed on October 10, 2019, a few days after the same tribunal rejected his petition to review his case, following an unprecedented move by some of the witnesses in his substantive trial to retract their testimonies.

His retrial was rejected by the judge after it emerged that he had sent agents to Rwanda to bribe the prosecution witnesses to retract the testimonies.

Bribery

Last year in September, Rwandan authorities, at the request of the Mechanism’s Chief Prosecutor, arrested five people who were involved in bribing witnesses ahead of the hearing of a petition by Ngirabatware to get a retrial.

He was relying on the recanting of testimonies on which he had been convicted, by the witnesses.

“Ngirabatware is alleged to have interfered with and bribed witnesses in his own case with the help of others, including the accused in the contempt case of Prosecutor v.Turinabo et al., in order to overturn his convictions by the ICTR,” reads part of a statement from the Tanzania-based Mechanism.

The five suspects who were all arrested in Rwanda are; Maximilien Turinabo, Anselme Nzabonimpa, Jean de Dieu Ndagijimana, Marie Rose Fatuma and Dick Prudence Munyeshuli.

They were acting on behalf of Ngirabatware, whom the court alleges to have violated witness protection orders, he said.

Review rejected

On September 27, 2019 the Appeals Chamber rendered its judgment with regard to Ngirabatware’s review proceedings.

The Appeals Chamber rejected Ngirabatware’s attempt to show that the four key witnesses underpinning his convictions by the ICTR for direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and for instigating and aiding and abetting genocide, had truthfully recanted their testimonies.

The Appeals Chamber observed that the circumstances surrounding the recantations of the four witnesses, including evidence that the witnesses received or sought financial incentives in connection with their recantations, as well as the fact that the recantations may have been orchestrated by others, raised considerable suspicion.

The Chamber decided that the final ruling, sentencing Ngirabatware to 30 years of imprisonment for these crimes, remains in force.

The application for retrial had last year on been contested by Genocide survivors who called it an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

The contempt trial, which will be held at the court’s chambers in Arusha, Tanzania, will be heard by a single judge - Vagn Joensen – and it is slated to start at 10:00 am.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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