On 17th November 2009 the Appeals Chamber of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) over turned an earlier ruling by the ICTR Trial Chamber III condemning Protais Zigiranyirazo of his role in Genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda and set the convict free.
Zigiranyirazo aka ‘Monsieur Z’ the elder brother to Agathe Kanziga wife of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana had been found guilty of committing genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity by participating in a joint criminal enterprise to kill Tutsis at Kesho Hill in Gisenyi Prefecture on 8 April 1994 and sentenced him to a term of 20 years of imprisonment.
He was also found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide in relation to the killing of Tutsis at a roadblock in the Kiyovu area of Kigali and sentenced him to one term of 15 years of imprisonment.
Both sentences were to be served concurrently. His trial commenced on 3rd October 2005 and closed on 29th May 2008.
Zigiranyirazo was born on 2 February 1938 in the Giciye Commune, Gisenyi Prefecture, Rwanda. Zigiranyirazo became a Member of Parliament in 1969.
In 1973, he was appointed Prefect of Kibuye and then served as Prefect of Ruhengeri from 1974 until 1989. In 1985 he was alleged to have had a hand in the brutal murder of Primatologist Diana Fossey during his tenure as Prefect in Ruhengeri.
Diana is reported to have come across information that incriminated the regime in international crime which led to her murder. The only suspect in the murder case was found dead in the prison cell it is alleged on orders of Mr. “Z”.
After he was relieved of his duties or his resignation as it was reported, he studied at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQM) in Montreal, Quebec in Canada and returned to Rwanda in 1993 when the Canadian Government deported him after threatening Rwandan refugee women there.
On his initial appearance before the court in October 2001 he was charged with two counts of crimes against humanity.
The indictment against him was, however, amended pending his second appearance on November 25, 2003. The amended indictment accused him of committing genocide against Tutsis between April and July 1994 in Kigali and Gisenyi.
Trial Chamber III composed of Judges Inés Mónica Weinberg de Roca, Khalida Rachid Khan and Lee Gacuiga Muthoga, on Thursday 18 December 2008, convicted Protais Zigiranyirazo of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment.
Under the amended indictment of 8th March 2005 the Prosecution charged Zigiranyirazo with five counts: conspiracy to commit genocide; genocide; complicity in genocide; extermination; and murder.
It was reported that he met with government, military and family authorities in the préfectures of Kigali-ville and Gisenyi, both preceding and following the death of President Habyarimana, to plan, prepare and facilitate attacks on Tutsi during 1994 with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the Tutsi ethnic group, establishing roadblocks in April 1994, in direct proximity of Zigiranyirazo’s three homes, he was involved in creating and supporting the Interahamwe, and the killings of approximately 2,000 Tutsi at Kesho and Rurunga Hills, near Rubaya Tea Factory, on 8 April 1994 and for the murders of three gendarmes and Stanislas Sinibagiwe.
The Chamber found “beyond reasonable doubt” that the Accused is criminally responsible … based on his participation in a JCE to kill Tutsi civilians on Kesho Hill, and through aiding and abetting the killing of Tutsi at the Kiyovu roadblock.
Accordingly, the Chamber found Zigiranyirazo guilty on two Counts of the Indictments: Genocide and Extermination as a Crime against Humanity but not guilty for Conspiracy to Commit Genocide, Murder and Complicity in Genocide.
Zigiranyirazo was convicted on 18th December 2008, he submitted his Notice of Appeal on 19 January 2009. On 18 March 2009, the Appeals Chamber granted the request and accepted as filed the Amended Notice of Appeal on 18 March 2009, The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, composed of Judges Theodor Meron, presiding, Mehmet Güney, Fausto Pocar, Liu Daqun, and Carmel Agius, on 17th November 2009 reversed Protais Zigiranyirazo’s convictions for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity and entered a verdict of acquittal. It then ordered his immediate release from the United Nations Detention Facility in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Appeals Chamber did not rule that Zigiranyirazo was not guilty of the five charges brought against him by the Prosecutor rather: “In reversing Zigiranyirazo’s convictions for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity, the Appeals Chamber again underscores the seriousness of the Trial Chamber’s errors.
The crimes Zigiranyirazo was accused of were very grave, meriting the most careful of analyses. Instead, the Trial Judgement misstated the principles of law governing the distribution of the burden of proof with regards to alibi and seriously erred in its handling of the evidence.
When viewed as a whole under the correct standard, the evidence in support of Zigiranyirazo’s alibi, which was not discounted by the Trial Chamber, provides a reasonable basis to conclude that he remained in Rubaya and its surrounding area on 12 and 17 April 1994. Accordingly, the Appeals Chamber the alibi evidence casts doubt on the Prosecution evidence placing him at the Kiyovu Roadblock on 12 and 17 April 1994.
Zigiranyirazo’s resulting convictions relating to Kesho Hill and the Kiyovu Roadblock violated the most basic and fundamental principles of justice. In these circumstances, the Appeals Chamber had no choice but to reverse Zigiranyirazo’s convictions”.
One of the defence witnesses in question is Domitilla Zigiranyirazo, daughter of the accused, whose witness account had been accepted by Prosecution during the Trial Camber hearings.
The Appeals Chamber also did not put into account the fact that Zigiranyirazo was a person with authority who could have had access to the many aircrafts in government use which might explain his coverage of the distance between Kiyovu roadblock and Kesho hills which was the basis of Zigiranyirazo’s appeal.
The work of the ICTR and its decisions has and will generate equal interest to people in the legal world and those who are not.
In December 2001 Ibuka (Association of Genocide Survivors) and AVEGA (Association of the Widows of Genocide victims) in Rwanda requested “that sanctions be imposed against Judges William Sekule, Winston Churchill Maqutu and Arlette Romaroson, members of the bench of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and against defence lawyer Duncan Mwanyumba and that the witness receive an apology for the treatment she received” in the gang rape case against Arsene Ntahobari for openly making fun of the witness “although they were perfectly aware that she was the sole survivor of women raped by the accused.”
It has been reported that Defence lawyers have bribed suspected criminals for the service to represent them and in turn the suspected criminals get a cut of the benefits that come with representing them. Many of the employs of the Tribunal are former subordinates of the suspected criminals or are related in one way or another to the accused and have worked against the Prosecution. Some interpreters are said to have coached.
Witnesses or mistranslated what witness accounts and the messages get distorted. It has been reported that some people in ICTR Prosecution have deliberately carried out lacklustre investigations and presentations in court with intent to absolve some of the accused.
There are reports of reports of the Tribunal employees divulging sensitive information to wanted suspects to evade justice.