Rwanda has not taken kindly to the decision by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals of the United Nations to release some genocide convicts and slashing the sentences.
Rwanda made its position known to the UN on June 6, the same day Judge Theodor Meron, president of the Residual Mechanism, presented to the UN Security Council a report on progress made by the court which took over the work of the criminal tribunals of Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
Justice Meron is accused by Kigali of showing “sympathy” for genocide suspects and convicts given the planned early release of convicted persons including Hassan Ngeze, one of the key perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Rwanda’s permanent representative to the UN, Valentine Rugwabiza, said that the achievements of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR) are at stake mainly because of the decisions of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT).
“Since the MICT was established in 2012, it has released, before the end of their sentences, more than 10 masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. These early releases have been granted in non-transparent circumstances and on the basis of inconsistent procedure,” Ms Rugwabiza told the Security Council.
Rwanda accuses the residual mechanism of doing little to apprehend and prosecute the genocide suspects that are still at large, such as Félicien Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya and Augustin Bizimana.
Others are Fulgence Kayishema, Charles Sikubwabo, Aloys Ndimbati, and Phénéas Munyarugarama, who have had their cases referred to Rwanda.
Rwanda said that it was not opposed to the principle of early release, but that the process at the UN court was not transparent.
Mobiliser of genocide
“The problem lies in the lack of transparency and accountability in the process used by the MICT to consider and effect early releases. The decisions have been solely made by the MICT president,” Ms Rugwabiza said.
Ms Rugwabiza said Rwanda and genocide survivors had learned of the pardons through the media.
Former ICTR prosecutors including Simone Monasebian have written to Justice Meron opposing the early release of Ngeze and others as it would dent the credibility of the court.
Ngeze was the publisher of Kangura newspaper through which Hutus were mobilised to kill Tutsis, and was also the author of the “10 Commandments of the Hutu.”
Mr Ngeze, while in jail, has been accused of creating social media pages and websites that he uses to share mainly religious messages but also ethnically laced commentaries.
Others likely to benefit from early release include Lt Col. Aloys Simba, a former army officer who was found guilty of genocide crimes and sentenced to 25 years at the end of 2005. He appealed but his sentence was upheld in 2007.
The 79-year-old was set to complete his sentence in 2028 but is now likely to be released next month.
On Wednesday, Justice Meron told the UNSC that the Residual Mechanism was performing well in its mandate, namely that of tracking and prosecution of the remaining fugitives, retrials, new trials for contempt or false testimony, protection of victims and witnesses, and preservation and management of archives.
The judge highlighted the milestones of the court and emphasised the adoption of the revision to the Code of Professional Conduct for the Judges of the Mechanism, by which the judges may be held accountable for upholding the principles set forth therein.
It was adopted in April.