ICTR: Trying to avoid another acquittal

04 April 2014 by Clive Muhenga, Arusha (Tanzania)

Against the backdrop of preparations for Rwanda's twentieth commemoration of the 1994 genocide, the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has severed the case of former chief of staff of the Rwandan army, General Augustin Bizimungu, just before acquitting two other high-ranking military officers and reducing the sentence of a fourth defendant.

Pointing to the "absence of legal findings" in the trial chamber's judgment against Bizimungu, the appeals judges,  in an apparent attempt to avoid a third acquittal in the 'Military II' trial, asked the prosecution to file further submissions, just days before the final judgment. The Military II trial of four senior Rwandan military officers, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, has lasted ten years. General Bizimungu was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment in May 2011, principally for crimes committed by soldiers and Interahamwe militiamen in different parts of Rwanda in 1994.

Apart from a speech he allegedly made in Ruhengeri, in the north of the country, the charges focused on killings and rapes committed by soldiers in Kigali and the central town of Gitarama. According to the trial chamber, 'he knew or had reason to know that his subordinates were about to commit [those acts]', and did not take all the necessary measures to prevent such crimes or punish the perpetrators.

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