Deal time at the ICTR

21 January 2007 by our correspondent in Arusha

Two years before the official end of its mandate, one of the priori-ties of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is to settle all the cases. On December 14, Joseph Nzabirinda took advantage of this favorable context and signed a mini-mum agreement concerning his guilt in the 1994 genocide. The prosecutor dropped the main charges against this former youth leader in exchange for Nzabirinda’s acknowledgement that he was an “approving spectator” of the massacre of Tutsis. On January 17, the judges will decide if they agree with the suggested sentence of 5 to 8 years in prison.

Nzabirinda, a.k.a. Biroto, has a few things in common with Vincent Rutaganira, a former town councillor whom the ICTR sentenced to 6 years in prison exactly 2 years ago. Like Rutaganira, Nzabirinda was never supposed to be tried by the UN court, given his limited responsibilities, since the ICTR was designed to try the biggest perpetrators of the crimes committed in Rwanda twelve years ago. Like Rutaganira, Nzabirinda’s lawyer is the very efficient François Roux, for whom this is his fifth success in an ICTR-related case. And like Rutaganira, Nzabirinda struck a plea bargain with the prosecutor who dropped the main charges and kept only the charge of passive complicity. In September 2001, the indictment mentined genocide, complicity in genocide, and crimes against humanity for extermination and rape.The prosecutor is now saying that “after five years of investigation and evidence analysis, he has concluded that he has no chance of proving the crimes with which the accused is charged.” Nzabirinda was indicted after the Rwandan government denounced him as a genocide suspect.

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