Shock at acquittal of Mr Z

25 November 2009 by Franck Petit

Former Rwandan prefect and businessman Protais Zigiranyirazo - or “Mr. Z” - was acquitted by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on November 16th.  

Z was convicted in 2008 of genocide and crimes against humanity relating to the killing of Tutsis at Kesho Hill in the Gisenyi prefecture in April 1994. The appeals court found that the first instance judges “seriously erred in [their] handling of the evidence”.

Sociologist and regular expert witness at the tribunal, André Guichaoua, says the acquittal downplays the role of the Akazu – the influential circle around Z’s mother, Agathe Kanziga, widow of President Juvénal Habyarimana - during the 1994 genocide.

Did Z’s acquittal surprise you?
It was more of a shock. It comes at a very bad time because it was not a key case in terms of the scope of responsibilities or the crime, but it was a case with major symbolic and political implications. For some Rwandans, it is proof that nothing happened, that the Akazu never conspired in any way. It is an enormous waste in terms of the whole underlying case involving Protais and the Akazu, but at the same time it is a deserved sanction that results directly from the way the tribunal works.

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