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Defence lawyers Mohamed Anouini and Jean-Louis Gilissen at the ICC (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
01 October 2016 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

In chapter seven of Thierry Cruvellier’s book ‘Court of Remorse’ about the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), he described the two defence lawyers, Belgian Jean-Louis Gilissen and Tunisian Mohamed Aouini as inseparable. “You never saw one without the other. They were always chatting. They had the same walk, the same honest handshake with their bodies learning forward slightly to convey sincerity, matching smiles and identical moustaches.”

Fast-forward fifteen years, and the same two were again tag teaming, this time at the ICC. They were representing their client Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi during the shortest trial the court has ever seen in its own short history. From Mahdi’s arrest warrant in September 2015 when he was already in the custody of the authorities of Niger , to a judgement and sentencing, has been little more than a year. That’s because Al Mahdi pled guilty and his lawyers Gilissen and Aouini negotiated a deal with the prosecution that allowed judges to give him a sentence of nine years for the single war crime of cultural destruction, safe in the knowledge that the prosecution would not appeal.

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Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his sentence on 21 June 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
23 June 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The 18-year sentence the International Criminal Court handed down on Tuesday against former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba [IJT-191, blog] for murders, rapes and pillaging committed by his troops while they were fighting in neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003 has received a mixed reception. Some experts like Mark Ellis of the International Bar Association told Deutsche Welle he would have “preferred a significantly longer sentence” given the severity of the crimes Bemba was convicted of. Human rights groups focused on the fact that this was the longest sentence handed down by the ICC so far and Bemba's defence pointed it out that it was significantly higher than other convictions under command responsibility by international tribunals.

Just how much is eighteen years compared to other similar cases in different courts? Justice Tribune spoke to criminologist Barbora Hola of the Amsterdam Vrije Universiteit faculty of law who studies sentencing of international crimes and has done empirical, quantitative studies of sentences at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and it's sister court for Rwanda, the ICTR.

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04 October 2004 by our correspondent

After the 1994 Rwandan genocide, few people would have believed that two officers with such contrasting profiles would find themselves in a joint billing at the Arusha court. Yet since September 20, and accompanied by two other high-level officers from the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), Generals Augustin Ndindiliyimana and Augustin Bizimungu have appeared side by side before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). 

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26 March 2006 by Thierry Cruvellier and our correspondent in Arusha

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is on the verge of concluding at least two guilty pleas, including one from Joseph Serugendo, former head of the Interahamwe militia who appeared in a closed session on March 15. Some of the detainees are preparing to follow his lead, while others are watching with interest to see the outcome of the negotiations with the prosecutor. The subject is still a sensitive one, and the UN tribunal is nervously pursuing this strategy it deems essential to concluding all its trials before 2008.

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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.

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25 May 2011 by Thierry Cruvellier and Franck Petit

Four senior officers of the Rwandan army were convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on 17 May for crimes committed during the genocide in 1994. But in the case of the former chief of staff of the Gendarmerie Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the sentencing clearly exposed the damage done by one of the tribunal’s worst failings: a preventive detention that went out of control. 

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06 July 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

“We cannot follow the proceedings at the Rwanda tribunal in Butare.” Lambert has no money to travel to Tanzania to witness the trial against alleged genocide suspects from 1994. The Rwandan would have loved to see the delivery of judgement against Arsène Shalom Ntahobali. He saw him at the university, seventeen years ago. “I would not recognise his face anymore,” he says. “But many people remember his crimes.” 

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20 July 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Richard Karegyesa leads the prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is finalising its mandate. 

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20 July 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

The Appeals Court in The Hague on 7 July sentenced Joseph Mpambara to life imprisonment for war crimes committed during the genocide in Rwanda. 

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Image from Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (Photo: Flickr/trocaire)
19 April 2015 by Stephanie van den Berg

Due to close its door permanently this year [IJT-172], the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), started its final trial last week in the appeals case involving six ex-officials of the former province of Butare.

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