ARUSHA - The United Nations court’s acquittal yesterday of former ministers in a government that oversaw the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, has been met with dismay, with officials saying it is a contradiction in the tribunal’s stand.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) yesterday acquitted two former ministers; Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs) and Casmir Bizimungu of Health.
“It is shocking! The ICTR is contradicting itself; it has already made a ruling, recognising the occurrence of Genocide in Rwanda, which was systematically prepared by a government that these two were part of. Acquitting them therefore, is a contradiction,” said Evariste Kalisa, a Member of Parliament.
Kalisa, who also chairs the parliamentary committee charged with fighting against the Genocide ideology, wondered who ought to be punished if the two were acquitted.
“All the decisions taken by that government were out of consensus, and we all know the Genocide was coordinated at the very top level, notably the cabinet, on which they sat,” said Kalisa.
The same tribunal yesterday sentenced two other former ministers Justin Mugenzi of Trade and Prosper Mugiraneza of Public Service to 30 years in prison, in the case commonly known as Government II.
The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Jean De Dieu Mucyo, described the acquittal as absurd, saying the two were part of the entire criminal enterprise.
“This is not justice delivered at all by the tribunal! They are simply disposing off cases by convicting some people and acquitting others just because they know they are closing soon,” Mucyo said in an interview.
“Those two men should not have been acquitted because they traversed the whole country spreading hate messages, how innocent can they be?” Mucyo implored the prosecution to appeal against the ruling.
Reacting to the ruling, Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga was equally disappointed.
“These acquittals come with shock and disappointment. We are talking about acquittal of cabinet ministers in a government that organised and executed the Genocide,” observed Ngoga.
He however noted that similar situations have occurred before, hastening to add that in the end, it is a court decision.
“We have got to overcome our feelings and look at the only available option, and that is the appeal which I believe prosecution will do,” said Ngoga.
ICTR Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow told reporters yesterday that his office would look at the full judgment and decide on whether to appeal the acquittals.
Other cabinet ministers that have since been acquitted by the Tanzania-based court include Andre Ntagerura of Transport and Andre Rwamakuba of Education among other top former officials.
The Government II trial commenced in 2003, and within 399 trial days, the Chamber heard evidence from 171 witnesses.