With just two days to the deadline for Rwanda to submit its position on the intended early release of three Genocide convicts by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), the former has not seen any application filed to the court by the convicts.
Basically, Rwanda is being asked to provide a position on applications they have not been served with.
The three convicts – Aloys Simba, Dominique Ntawukuriryayo and Hassan Ngeze – submitted their requests for early release between 2016 (Ntakukuriryayo) and March this year for Ngeze but none of these filings have been presented to the Government of Rwanda.
The suspects in question were convicted by the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for masterminding the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
MICT took over from both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Not just applications, but also any support document submitted by the convicts to incentivise their early release, have been given to the Government of Rwanda to make an informed rebuttal.
All these documents are supposed to be on public record, but they are not available on the court’s website.
Kigali has also not received any communications from Benin or Mali, the countries where the three convicts are serving their sentences, in respect of the convicts’ requests.
“The GoR (Government of Rwanda) sees no reasonable basis for failing or refusing to disclose these documents and written submissions prior to making a decision on the merits,” reads part of a Note Verbale submitted last week to the Tanzania-based court.
In a preliminary submission, Rwanda objected to the release of any of convicts, advancing a number of reasons, including the atrocities for which they were convicted, the fact that none had come out to express remorse for what they did and the impact their release would have on survivors of the Genocide.
“Their release from prison would cause untold psychological harm for the survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi, and it would contribute to the erosion of the international criminal justice system.
“We respectfully request for a hearing on this matter, at which we will, inter alia, establish the gravity of the offences for which these men have been convicted and the unworthiness of the applicants for early release; present victims and psychologists as witnesses to establish the injuries that will accrue; and present legal experts,” reads an earlier submission.
Different legal minds that spoke to The New Times affirmed that much.
“Due process requires that all such documents submitted by the convicts to motivate their early release must naturally be shared with all parties to the process; for the case of Rwanda, which has made it clear they will oppose the early release, they need to have the filings in full to know what they are responding to,” said a lawyer who is familiar with the operations of the UN-tribunal.
The Meron factor
The release of the three convicts will bring the tally of those that have been released early from their respective sentences to 17.
Most, if not all of these, have one benefactor in common: American Judge Theodor Meron, who is also the president of MICT and, before that, the presiding judge of the tribunal’s Appeals Chamber.
It has been the same judge who not only on appeal set free some of the accused previously convicted by the Trial Chamber, but also significantly reduced sentences for others, including the key architect of the Genocide, Théoneste Bagosora.
Hassan Ngeze, one of the latest applicants, has also already benefitted from Meron’s largesse, having previously been convicted to life sentence by the ICTR Trial Chamber, which was reduced to 35 years by a Meron bench.
“Personally, I believe the court should be careful with these early releases because, unlike provisional release, there is no prospect of the suspect being taken back into custody, it is like termination of the sentence, basically,” the expert said.
Late last month, it was the first time in over five years that Rwanda was asked for an opinion on matters pertaining to early release of any of the convicts of the UN court.
Meron had at the earliest opportunity used his discretion as President in 2012 – the same year in which he was appointed so – to cut Rwanda out of the parties to be consulted on matters to do with early release of the convicts of the tribunal.
Consequently, many convicts were released early, including Ferdinand Nahimana, who is known to be at the forefront of the ideologues of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Meron, 88, will next month complete his term at the helm of the court, but indications are that he will seek renewal by the United Nations Security Council, something which Genocide survivors have already objected.
ABOUT THE CONVICTS
He is a renowned virulent journalist made famous by his publication of the so-called 10 Hutu Commandments, which formed part of the anti-Tutsi propaganda that was a major tool in the Genocide against the Tutsi.
He is currently in Mali where he is serving a 35-year sentence which was reduced on appeal from the life sentence previously awarded to him by the ICTR.
Besides the toxic anti-Tutsi propaganda he published through his Kangura newspaper, Ngeze actively participated in massacres in his native Gisenyi prefecture, currently Rubavu District.
Ntawukuriryayo is a former sous-prefet of Gisagara in the current Southern Province, he has applied for early release from a 20-year prison sentence he was handed on appeal in 2012.
He is also being incarcerated in Mali.
Ntawukuriryayo featured prominently in the killings at Kabuye Hill in Gisagara where he tactfully lured Tutsi with promise to protect them only to be hand them to the militia with no chance to escape.
Simba, who is serving 25 years affirmed by the Appeals Chamber of the tribunal in 2007, supervised the massacres of thousands of Tutsi in the current Southern Province.
Here, the former Colonel in the then armed forces (Ex-FAR), he had been appointed as the de facto leader of the military and para-military force that was the main killing machine in the region.