UN Must Probe into Theodor Meron Decisions to Free Genocide Architects

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Some Grave Mistakes committed by Judge Theodor Meron and the Residual Mechanism on cases related to the Genocide against the Tutsi that he was entrusted to handle by the United Nations.

On 14 December 2016, Judge Theodor Meron, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals took the decision to release Ferdinand Nahimana and Father Emmanuel Rukundo, two Rwandans convicted of the crime of genocide. They were both serving their sentences in Mali.

This decision follows other controversial judgments taken by Theodor Meron, such as setting free some notorious criminals who are  at the mantle of planning of the genocide against the Tutsi including Protais Zigiranyirazo, Justin Mugenzi, Prosper Mugiraneza, Augustin Ndindiriyimana, Francois Xavier Nzuwonemeye or reducing their sentences as he did for Théoneste Bagosora, whose life sentence was reduced to 35 years by the appeal chamber headed by judge Theodor Meron, Col. Anatole Nsengiyumva and Ildefonse Nizeyimana. Col Nsengiyumva was also released after a lenient sentence he had been given yet he was among the group of people who led the execution of genocide in former Gisenyi Prefecture.

CNLG condemns in the strongest terms the decision to release notorious criminals most of whom planned and executed or facilitated the execution of the Genocide against the Tutsi, the crimes they were convicted by the ICTR.

Such decisions demean the Genocide against the Tutsi and gives room for impunity. Presence of the culture of impunity is what led to the genocide which was committed in a most brutal and atrocious manner. It should be recalled that the massacre of Tutsis was committed in 1959, 1963, and 1973 and between 1990 and 1993 and the perpetrators were rewarded instead of being prosecuted for the crimes.

It’s the kind of impunity that culminated into the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi whereby killing of Tutsis was no longer regarded as a crime but something that was worth a reward. Radio RTLM among whose founder include Ferdinand Nahimana would air statements and programs calling on people to go and kill Tutsis across the country.

  1. The released men are among the architects of the genocide

Judge Meron has so far granted early release to the following genocide convicts, including those who were sentenced to 30 years in jail, after having their life sentences overturned on appeal.

1) Nahimana Ferdinand: he was among the founders of RTLM. He was released on December 14th, 2016 after having his life sentence by the court of first instance, reduced on appeal to 30 years in prison.

2) Father Emmanuel Rukundo: he was the military chaplain in the Rwandan army. He was released on December 14, 2016 after his sentence was reduced on appeal, from 25 years to 23 years.

3) Col. Alphonse Nteziryayo: he was Prefet of Butare prefecture. He was released on March 23, 2016. He had his initial sentence handed by the trial chamber reduced from 30 years to 25 years, on appeal.

4) Dr. Ntakirutimana Gerald: he was the Director of Mugonero hospital in Karongi. He was released on April 29, 2014. He had been handed a 25 year sentence.

5) Cpt. Innocent Sagahutu: he was second-in-command of Reconnaissance Battalion. He was   released on May 13, 2014. He also had his sentence reduced on appeal, from 20 years to 15.

6) Paul Bisengimana: He was Bourgmester of Gikoro Commune (Kigali-rural prefecture). He was released on December 12/2012. He was sentenced to 15 years after pleading guilty to the crimes he was accused of.

7) Omar Serushago: He was the de facto leader of Interahamwe militia in former Gisenyi prefecture. He had been sentenced to 15 years in jail. He was freed on December 12, 2012 after pleading guilty for the crimes he was alleged.

8) Col Tharcise Muvunyi: He was Commander of the École des sous-officiers (ESO) in Butare. He was released on March 7, 2012. He had been handed a 25 year sentence by the trial chamber which was reduced on appeal to 12 years.

9) Juvenal Rugambarara: He was Bourgmester of Bicumbi Commune during the genocide. Rugambarara received a sentence of 11 years’ imprisonment on 16 November 2007 after pleading guilty. He was released on February 8, 2012.

10) Michel Bagaragaza: He was the managing director of OCIR-The, the controlling body for the tea industry in Rwanda. On 5 November 2009, Bagaragaza was sentenced to eight years jail for complicity to commit genocide. On October 24, 2011, he was granted early release after he served “three-quarters” of his sentence. He was the first convict to be granted early release.

Judge Theodor Meron, ignores the mechanisms’ primary responsibility of tracking, arresting and prosecuting fugitives still at large.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (the MICT) was established by the United Nations Security Council on 22 December 2010 to carry out a number of essential functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), after the completion of their respective mandates.  It commenced functioning on 1 July 2012.

It is responsible for performing essential functions previously carried out by the ICTR including among others Securing the arrest, transfer and prosecution of the remaining fugitives still wanted for trial by the ICTR as a top priority for the Mechanism.

Under Article 6(3) of its Statute, it is stipulated that the Mechanism shall only retain jurisdiction over those individuals considered to be the most responsible for committing the gravest crimes. In accordance with this Article, the ICTR Prosecutor requested referrals to Rwanda in the cases of six fugitives:

Fulgence Kayishema (referred 22 February 2012); Charles Sikubwabo (referred 26 March 2012); Ladislas Ntaganzwa (referred 8 May 2012, he was arrested in DRC and transferred to Rwanda in 2015); Aloys Ndimbati (referred 25 June 2012); Ryandikayo (referred 20 June 2012); Pheneas Munyarugarama (referred 28 June 2012).

Under the same article, it was stipulated that the Mechanism has jurisdiction over the following three accused: Augustin Bizimana; Félicien Kabuga; Protais Mpiranya. Who are at the mantle of the plan and execution of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Instead of focusing and putting efforts in tracking and bringing to book the above mentioned fugitives, Judge Meron has become preoccupied with releasing the criminals that were convicted of the most heinous crime before they finish their sentences. This attitude is aimed at nothing else but minimizing and demeaning the degree of the genocide against the Tutsi, which opens the old wounds of its victims. It’s a practice that contravenes what the mechanism is meant to serve.

CNLG would like to remind that prevention of genocide and punishing its perpetrators is an obligation to individuals and countries as mentioned in the 1948 convention for punishing the crime of genocide. The fact that after the genocide committed against the Tutsi the UN Security Council took a resolution establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, it came as a solution to the culture of impunity.

It’s unfortunate that the President of the Mechanism has continually taken controversial decisions that contradicts the purpose of the institution; decisions that act in favor of perpetrators while humiliating the victims, whereby he has persistently overturned decisions taken by fellow judges at the trial chamber of the court.

Remissness to Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka and Laurent Bucyibaruta cases

Another responsibility for the Residual Mechanism is ensuring that justice is served on the cases of perpetrators of the Genocide against the Tutsi that were transferred by the ICTR to different countries including France and Rwanda. Concerning Rwanda, the Residual mechanism has set up a permanent team that closely follow up on the cases of Jean Uwinkindi, Bernard Munyagishari and Ladislas Ntaganzwa who are being prosecuted by Rwandan courts.

However, on the cases of Laurent Bucyibaruta, former Prefet of Gikongoro Prefecture during genocide and Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka who is alleged of taking part in the genocide in Kigali City, both cases were transferred to France by the ICTR in 2007, the Residual Mechanism hasn’t done enough to ensure that the two are prosecuted for their alleged atrocious crimes.

Since the transfer of the two cases, French justice has shown no or little interest in prosecuting the alleged until in 2015 when the court decided to drop the case against Munyeshyaka. In all this, the Residual Mechanism under Judge Theodor Meron has done nothing to reverse the decision or issue any statement condemning the decision that doesn’t reflect the heinous crimes Munyeshyaka is alleged to have committed which were well documented by the ICTR.

This attitude by the president of the Mechanism is a reflection of his dilatory attitude towards justice to the victims of the genocide and his preoccupation to having even the convicted masterminds of the genocide set free.

Such actions should be investigated since they derail the efforts that have been made in serving justice to the victims of the genocide and also have Judge Meron replaced from his duties since he has failed to deliver according to the mandate and purpose of the Mechanism regarding management of cases of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Controversial decisions that have been repeatedly taken by Judge Meron amount to denial and minimization of the Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi which was legally approved by the United Nations in its resolution 955 (1994) whereby it called upon all member nations to punish those who deny the genocide. Judge Meron too isn’t spared from these resolutions.

Conclusion

The international community failed Rwandans during the genocide against the Tutsi yet it had its mission present in the country, today there’s an attempt, through international justice, to minimize the gravity of the genocide by releasing its top architects.

The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide condemns in the strongest terms possible the controversial decisions that have been incessantly taken by Judge Theodor Meron, and calls for urgent investigation on the controversial decisions that only have served to benefit genocide perpetrators given the previous revelations that the same judge has put undue pressure on his fellow judges to make some controversial rulings.

CNLG particularly urges the UN Security Council to swiftly review the decisions taken by Judge Theodor Meron and take action to save the credibility of the residual mechanism and international justice at large.

 

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