Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rwanda: " The heralds of the holocaust, Uzis on a street corner "

New Times Rwanda reports

Controversial ICTR judge acquits top Genocidaires

                                                                                  Judge Theodor Meron.

Former head of the Rwandan gendarmerie Gen. Augustin Ndindiliyimana walked away from the latest judgement of the appeal bench in Arusha yesterday, Tuesday, having been acquitted of all charges against him.
Augustin Ndindiliyimana seems to have been more of a moderate and that appears to be what has brought about this acquittal it is interseting to note that Paul Rusesabagina   (Hotel Rwanda)  in his biography observes: 

" Ndindiliyimana was more of a moderate who did not seem to entirely approve of the genocide. He also notes that Ndindiliyimana was responsible for dismantling a potentially disastrous roadblock in front of the Hôtel des Mille Collines."

Sorry but  "....who did not seem to entirely approve of the genocide." doesn't sound like a very good defense in my opinion.

The 65-minute ruling also decided on the acquittal and immediate release of former army major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and a downgrading of the sentence of Captain Innocent Sagahutu from 20 to 15 years.
Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Captain Innocent Sagahutu acquittal and the reduction in prison sentence is more than odd, it would seem that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda appeals bench has lost all touch with reality. Or to put it another way Judge Theodor Meron  has. I would have to say that having a clearly senile Judge in charge of the tribunal has resulted in justice being denied to the victims of the atrocities of 1994.  

" The ICTR indictment alleges that between 1990 and 1994, Nzuwonemeye and other officers conspired to exterminate the Tutsi civilians and political opponents, and helped to train interahamwe and militia groups who committed the genocide.

After Habyarimana's death and the start of the genocide, members of the Reconnaissance Battalion commanded by Nzuwonemeye's subordinate, Innocent Sagahutu, "tracked down, arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed" Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana. They also took into custody ten Belgian peacekeepers from UNAMIR who had been guarding her house, who were later killed. They were accompanied in this by members of the Presidential Guard commanded by Major Protais Mpiranya.
During the same operation, the Rwandan Army soldiers took into custody ten Belgian peacekeepers from UNAMIR who had been guarding her house. They were taken back to Camp Kigali, a FAR encampment, were they were "attacked and beaten" by members of RECCE under Sagahutu's command. They were later killed."

Prosecutor Hassan Jallow and trial judges looked shocked and, in some cases, bewildered, by the result.

Bewildered is indeed the operative word here, but I am surprised that they were shocked. Meron has form, as head of the International Tribunal for Yugoslavia he came up with some shockingly bad judgments overturning precedents from WW I I.

" Over the last eight months, a series of surprise rulings at the international war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has sparked extraordinary controversy in the staid world of international law.

Critics say the decisions weakened World War II-era precedents that hold commanders responsible for war crimes. Supporters say their impact is being exaggerated and the judge associated with them is being unfairly maligned."

And that seems to be the crux of the incomprehensible decisions that have been made by the same Judge in these Rwandan cases. This isn't a principle that applies only to the law it is common throughout society, if some goes wrong on your watch you are accountable. Lets be really clear though, genocide is not merely something going wrong, it is the most heinous crime possible and these " soldiers " and I use that word with great reservations, have not been punished.    

A notable absentee from the judgement who had been scheduled to appear was former head of the Rwandan armed forces (FAR) General Augustin Bizimungu.

Originally, the four accused had been tried together as part of the case termed ‘military 2.’
On Friday, February 7, the Appeal bench decided at the final moment that it was ‘severing’ the Bizimungu case from that of the others while it considered ‘the absence of legal findings in the trial judgement in relation to Bizimungu’s conviction for genocide’, for which he had received a 30 year sentence at the ICTR on  May 17, 2011.
The packed public gallery listened attentively as the head of the appeal bench, 83-year-old Presiding Judge Theodor Meron read out the controversial decision.

" ...83-year-old Presiding Judge Theodor Meron ...", 800,000 people died and now we have denied them justice, great age does not always mean great wisdom.

Ndindiliyimana had been sentenced at his original trial for crimes of genocide, extermination and murder but given a sentence of ‘time already served in detention’ that amounted to 11 years and released.

He had been appointed as head of the gendarmerie in September 1992, holding the position until July 1994.  He looked calm and impassive as step by step the appeal bench found that the original trial judges had ‘erred’ in their findings.

In fact, the word ‘erred’ was to be used time and again to describe the previous trial judgement.

I think that the nature of these errors need to be spelt out in far greater detail.  

According to the appeal judges, Ndindiliyimana had ceded control of most of the gendarmerie to the Rwandan army (FAR) on April 7, 1994 and extremist and rogue elements had ‘infiltrated’ the police thus downplaying his authority and ability to control their actions. At his trial it was shown that gendarmes had been guarding Ndindiliyimana’s residence at the request of his wife. Some of these had later taken part in the massacre of Tutsi at Kansi Parish for which Ndindiliyimana was originally held responsible by not preventing or punishing them as their superior.

Following orders is not a defense, but failing to give orders when you are in a position to do so is a defense. This is bollocks, no commander would be foolish enough to give orders to commit crimes against humanity therefor it would seem logical the only possible defense is to give orders that prohibit explicitly the committing of such crimes. Abdication of responsibility as a defense is an obscenity.  

Meron’s appeal bench decided that this was an error and Ndindiliyimana lacked ‘the ability to prevent or punish them and no reasonable trial finding could find the gendarmes had participated’ at the parish. A similar decision was taken to account for his responsibility for killings by Ndindiliyimana’s gendarmes at St André College in Kigali.

Just for the record St Andre College: 

" A number of those who escaped the massacre in the Nyamirambo church hid in the nearby Collège Saint André. There, a similar siege occurred following another broadcast by RTLM. By 11 April, an estimated 100 people were hiding in the school. According to witness testimony, RTLM targeted the school on 11 or 12 April, claiming it was harbouring RPF [Front patriotique rwandais] accomplices. In apparent response to the RTLM broadcast, on the evening of 13 April, the RPF rescued about 40 of the people hiding there. On 14 or 15 April, militias stormed the premises and killed all those remaining."

François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye surprisingly did not attend the court with no reason given for his absence and was represented by his counsel. He had been Commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion within the Rwandan army from 1993.

At his trial in 2011 he was convicted of genocide and murder as a crime against humanity and sentenced to 20 years. Meron, reading the appeal bench decision with just an occasional pause for a sip of water, again decided there had been numerous ‘errors’ by the original trial judges.

Why does the sipping of water remind me so much of this ?

" Pilate washes his hands to show that he was not responsible for the execution of Jesus and reluctantly sends him to his death."

Meron like Pilate and indeed the accused it would seem, feel that abdicating responsibility is acceptable. It wasn't, it isn't and it never will be.

Most notably this had been in the actions of troops under Nzuwonemeye’s control who had taken part in the murder of then prime minister Agathe Uwilingyimana.

However, the appeal court ruled that Nzuwonemeye could not have known that some of his men placed 100 metres away to stop Uwilingiyimana escaping to give a radio broadcast would take part on their own initiative in the brutal killing. Equally, Sagahutu, who was the second in command of the reconnaissance battalion, was also cleared of any responsibility in this killing.

Both army officers had originally been convicted for the murder of members of the Belgian Unamir force, also on April 7, at Camp Kigali.

Meron announced that the appeal bench was clearing Nzuwonemeye of being responsible as a superior officer for the death of the peacekeepers.

It did though find with the original trial decision that Sagahutu had aided and abetted the killing, allowing a mobile grenade launcher to be taken from his office for this purpose, though it was unclear if it was used to murder the last of the Belgians who were putting up some resistance.

A soldier takes a soldiers chance, the Belgian peacekeepers died with honour, that is enough and Meron's  stupidity will never detract from that. It is also far more than can be said for these Genocidaires. 
Ndindiliyimana has been living for the past two years in a safe house in Arusha with others the ICTR has either acquitted or released. His attempt, as with many of the other former accused, to get a residency permit for Belgium has been refused. The defence now hopes that this acquittal will enable him to travel to Europe to rejoin his family.

Belgium should issue indictments for murder, that these men, responsible for the deaths of the Belgium peacekeepers could think that Belgium would want them beggars all belief.

Sagahutu, who sported a long greying beard for the judgement, was taken back to the UN detention facilities. However, as he has been in custody since being transferred back from Denmark where he was arrested in February 2000, he has only a year left of his reduced punishment to serve, and it is likely he may be set free far sooner given the ICTR decision to release convicted prisoners after serving three quarters of sentences and he has already applied for early release.

This is not justice, we have failed the 800,000 victims of the Rwandan genocide. 

Given the nature of Meron’s appeal judgements in this case and other military ones at the ICTR and ICTY in the Hague, there is every prospect that General Bizimungu will also find his sentence substantially reduced or even dismissed when he appears in the coming months to hear his own verdict.

Genocide survivor and director at the National Commission for the fight against genocide (CNLG), Dr Diogene Bideri, reacted to yesterday’s verdicts with shock and a sense that once again the ICTR has let down victims of the 1994 horror.

Bideri said: “I cannot really find a word to express what I see happening at the ICTR and what I see as a systematic attempt by Judge Meron, working to a political agenda, that has downplayed what actually happened here and which we Rwandans all know the truth about.

I agree. I disagree with just about everything the current Kigali regime stands for and does but I hope Kagame raises pure hell over this travesty, he would have my total support.

“There is great indignation at the trivialization such a judgement gives, and it is something we cannot accept even though we are just meant to sit back and keep silent.”

Bideri pointed to a number of other highly controversial decisions taken by the appeal bench under Meron in Arusha and at the ICTY in the Hague that have led to high profile military and political figures being acquitted after receiving hefty original sentences with the trial judges being held to be ‘in error’ in their understanding or application of the law.

The world is not short of jurists, why have the victims of 1994 been delivered into the hands of this incompetent ? We the world failed them in life and now we have failed them in death.

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