Survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, under their Umbrella organisation, Ibuka, have appealed to the incoming President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT), Judge Carmel Agius, to exercise restraint and consider the seriousness of the crimes while making final decision on early release and commutation of sentences on cases.
The Second Vice President of Ibuka, Freddy Mutanguha, told Judge Agius, the first President of MICT to meet survivors, that 25 years since the atrocities, the state of the survivors was still fragile and they continue to face many difficulties.
Relations between Genocide survivors and the Government of Rwanda on the one side, and MICT (the successor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) have suffered a great deal in recent past as a result of immediate former tribunal president Theodor Meron’s unilateral decisions to grant early release to top Genocide convicts, without even seeking the opinion of Kigali or survivors’ organisations.
Agius, of Malta, replaced American Meron in January.
Mutanguha said that upon their release before convicts complete their sentences, there is a general anxiety and fear among survivors because most of the convicts have not shown any remorse for their crimes and have not been rehabilitated.
“When these genocidaires are released without truly showing any remorse or undergoing rehabilitation, our fear grows, that these are the exact people who, upon their release, will go around the world denying the Genocide and spreading false information undermining the already achieved milestones, which the ICTR in fact helped bring about,” he said.
No clear plan
Mutanguha pointed out that the basis for of Ibuka’s fears is the lack of a clear plan and enforcement mechanism on transparency and accountability when releasing the convicts saying some of them had already started forming associations to negate and deny the Genocide.
“None of the statutes and rules of procedures stipulate anything on what should happen if these convicts involve themselves in crimes related to the denial of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. We see this as a major threat, denial is likely to grow,” he said.
Lack of rehabilitation
Mutanguha said that although among the conditions for one to be granted early release is to have demonstrated rehabilitation, to date, there is no mechanism in place to measure their level of rehabilitation making it difficult for the MICT and its president, who has the power to release convicts at his own discretion, to discern whether rehabilitation has truly taken place.
“We urge you Mr. President and the MICT to put in place clear rules of procedure and enforcement mechanism that outline conditions for early release, commutation of sentence, and request that they are applied transparently, by an international or national body, as seen fit by the stakeholders,” he said.
This, he said, could be similar to a parole system, where the activities and behaviour of beneficiaries of early release are monitored, and a zero tolerance policy on activities like propagating genocide ideology or denial, rallying or creating groups or supporters to threaten victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, writing, publishing, or public speaking aligned with genocidal propaganda is imposed.
The issue of top fugitives Félicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya, and Augustin Bizimana wanted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, was also raised with Mutanguha requesting more efforts in hunting them down.
“As survivors, justice means seeing these criminals being punished instead of living with impunity,” he said.
Judge Agius promised to make changes, beginning with fixing the relationship between Rwandans and MICT.
“I was about to start my retirement but I kept on thinking about Rwanda and MICT, and I decided to join the race. It was not an easy decision but I feel that there is justice that still needs to be served. I come with an open heart and mind,” he said.