Rwanda objects to early release of Ngeze and co.

Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye (2nd left) and his delegation are shown around one of the courtrooms of the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda during his visit to the court last week. Courtesy

The Government of Rwanda has urged the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) not to grant early release to three convicts who played instrumental roles in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, The New Times has learnt.

The trio; Col. Alloys Simba, Dominique Ntawukuriryayo and Hassan Ngeze, have requested the Mechanism – which took over from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) - to be granted early release.

Ngeze 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 virulent anti-Tutsi propaganda he published through his Kangura newspaper, Ngeze actively participated in massacres in his native Gisenyi prefecture, currently current Rubavu District. 

For Ntawukuriryayo, 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.

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 where 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.

Speaking to The New Times, the source said Kigali has strongly objected to the request, outlining a number of reasons, including the seriousness of the crime of genocide for which they were convicted, lack of remorse on the part of the convicts, and the impact their release would have on Genocide  survivors.

This stance is in line with the Government of Rwanda’s position reiterated last week by the Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, during a visit to the court’s seat in Arusha, Tanzania, where he also demanded for an open hearing on the requests by the convicts.

Rwanda, according to our source, has also offered to make its case before the Mechanism, and to present expert witnesses, to among others, attest to the continued suffering the early release of Genocide masterminds has brought to the survivors of the Genocide.

As many as 10 ICTR convicts have previously been granted early release; decisions mainly attributed to the current president of the tribunal, Theodor Meron, in his capacity either as head of the Mechanism or President of the Appeals Chamber.

Meron also presided over the acquittal of several Genocide masterminds, including former cabinet ministers in the genocidal government who had been convicted by the Trial Chamber, while he also considerably reduced the sentences of several others on appeal.

‘Short notice’

Meanwhile, The New Times has learnt that the Mehcnism gave Rwanda just 14 days to submit its opinion regarding the requests for early release by the three convicts.

This, our source says, is surprising “given the fact that some of the requests were submitted to the court months, and in some cases, years back”. 

For instance, Simba submitted his request for early release as far back as 2016 while Ntawukuriryayo filed his submission last year but the Government of Rwanda was only asked to submit their opinion on April 27, giving them just two weeks to come up with the opinion, said the source.

In the case of Ngeze, he notified the MICT of his request for early release in March 2018, and the court only notified the Government of Rwanda about this on May 3, the source added.  

Although Rwanda is a central party in the proceedings of the tribunal, it was never asked for an opinion from the court regarding the decision to grant early release to any convict previously released.

Several experts have questioned the rationale and legality of previous early releases, especially considering that the mechanism or the tribunal before it did not consult Kigali.

The most recent convict to be released is genocide ideologue Ferdnand Nahimana, who in 2016 MICT President Meron set free early into his 30-year sentence “on good conduct” grounds.

Some reports have pointed to the existence of “an axis of evil’ between those set free by the UN Genocide tribunal, those it acquitted and former ICTR defence lawyers with the goal of continuing to push a narrative that negates or trivialises the Genocide against the Tutsi.

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