Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda today acquitted Jean Mpambara, the former bourgmestre of Rukara Commune in Kibungo Prefecture, of all charges brought against him.
Mpambara was charged with genocide and extermination for his alleged involvement in attacks at three different locations in his Commune. He was not alleged to have killed anyone himself, but the Indictment charges that he had instigated and supported the attacks. In legal terms, this assistance was characterized as aiding and abetting, and participating in a joint criminal enterprise.
The Chamber found that the evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mpambara ever instigated or positively assisted the attackers. The testimony of those incidents was, with one exception, uncorroborated and undermined by significant credibility issues. Furthermore, the Chamber heard extensive testimony from Defence witnesses, some of whom were Tutsis or resident expatriates, that the Accused had publicly opposed the violence and that he did all he could with the limited resources at his disposal to deter the attacks. Evidence was also heard that while fleeing Rwanda with other refugees in mid-April, Mpambara issued identity cards marked “Hutu” to Tutsis so that they could pass through roadblocks unmolested.
The Prosecution alleged that the inaction of the Accused on certain occasions proved that he was in league with the attackers. Mpambara testified that his inaction was due, rather to a lack of resources in the face of increasingly well-armed and numerous attackers. The Chamber found that the inaction of the Accused on those occasions did not show that he was a participant in a joint criminal enterprise, or that he had aided and abetted the attackers. In fact, the Chamber heard significant evidence suggesting that Mpambara had made efforts to prevent the violence and that his resources were limited.
As the trial progressed, the Prosecution made clear that it wished to hold the Accused liable not only for aiding and abetting and joint criminal enterprise, but also for failing to prevent or punish others for committing crimes. The Chamber, by a majority, held that the Prosecution had not properly pleaded this charge, even assuming that it stated a cognizable form of criminal liability.
The Chamber ordered the immediate release of Mr. Mpambara.
Jean Mpambara was arrested in northern Tanzania on 20 June 2001 and charged with genocide. The Indictment was later amended to add charges of complicity in genocide as an alternative count to genocide, and extermination. The Accused pleaded not guilty to all counts. The trial commenced on 19 September 2005. The Prosecution called ten witnesses over eight trial days and the Defence called sixteen witnesses over twenty trials days. Closing arguments were heard on 2 and 3 May 2006.
The Trial Chamber I was composed of Jai Ram Reddy, presiding; Judge Sergei Alekseevich Egorov; and Judge Flavia Lattanzi.