The prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is right to appeal against sentences and some findings in the judgement delivered in the case involving four former senior military officers accused of genocide.
According to the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, the ICTR Prosecution did what was within its mandate to appeal the sentences if some parties in the case were left unsatisfied by the May 17 ruling by the ICTR.
In May this year, the Trial Chamber convicted the former Chief of Staff of the army Augustin Bizimungu and former Chief of Staff of the Gendarmerie Augustin Ndindiliyimana of Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Bizimungu was sentenced to 30 years; while Ndindiliyimana was sentenced to the time served since his arrest on January 29, 2000 and was subsequently freed upon pronouncement of the verdict.
Though the ICTR Prosecution had at first welcomed the ruling, umbrella associations of Genocide survivors were left disappointed by the sentences they described as “minimal” compared to the role the military men played in the Genocide.
Ngoga noted that it is important and part of the ICTR prosecution mandate to appeal if some of the parties in the case were not satisfied.
“That is within the competence of the Prosecutor and his assessment of the judgement. It is logical that the appeal is made when the earlier decision does not meet the expectations of the party to the case,” Ngoga told The New Times.
According to the May ruling, the tribunal found former Generals Bizimungu and Ndindiliyimana responsible for offences perpetrated by soldiers and gendarmes under their command in the 1994 massacres.
Bizimungu was found to have, among others, made a speech in the then Mukingo Commune, calling for a start to the killing of Tutsis in the Northern Province, formerly Ruhengeri Prefecture.
Ndindiliyimana, on the other hand, was found liable for failure to take necessary and reasonable measures to punish the alleged perpetrators of crimes at Kansi Parish in Nyaruhengeri Commune in Butare, Southern Province and at St. Andre College in Nyamirambo.
In the same trial known as Military II, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, the Commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, a member of the unit, were convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes for their role in the death of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and killings of 10 Belgian peacekeepers on April 7, 1994.
They were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment each for ordering the killings.
“We are appealing against the sentences for Bizimungu and Ndindiliyimana and the findings in which the two were acquitted. For Sagahutu and Nzuwonemeye, we are appealing against sentences only,” the ICTR Deputy Prosecutor, Bongani Majola, told Hirondelle News Agency on Monday.
The Deputy Prosecutor could not, however, specify the maximum sentence they have proposed to be imposed for each accused offender.
“We have left the matter to the Appeals Chamber mandated to decide on the appropriate sentence,” he said.
In an interview, the president of Ibuka, the umbrella association of Genocide survivors’ associations, Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, said that survivors now expect the tribunal to hand the former officers appropriate sentences.
The heaviest sentence that can be imposed by the Tanzania-based tribunal is life.
“At the time of the ruling, we said the sentences were short and we insist the soldiers deserve much longer sentences because their role as planners was very clear. This time, we hope justice will be delivered,” Dusingizemungu said.
“Hopefully, the tribunal will listen to our pleas and do the right thing. We are also calling upon anyone with evidence against these Generals to use this opportunity and bring it up. It’s not the job of the prosecution alone”.