The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda today dismissed appeals by the defence and affirmed decisions of Trial Chambers in the case of Jean-Paul Akayesu and the joint trial of Clement Kayishema and Obed Ruzindana. The Prosecution’s appeal in the Kayishema/Ruzindana case was also dismissed.
Akayesu, former Bourgmestre of Taba had appealed against his conviction and sentence of life imprisonment and Kayishema, former Prefect of Kibuye and Ruzindana, a former businessman had appealed against conviction and sentence of life imprisonment and 25 years in jail respectively.
The Appeals Chamber composed of Judges Claude Jorda, presiding, and Lal Chand Vohrah, Mohamed Shahabuddeen, Rafael Nieto-Navia and Fausto Pocar also allowed certain cross appeals on points of law lodged by the Prosecutor.
Akayesu was found guilty of nine out of fifteen counts charging him with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions in the first ever trial before the Tribunal. He was sentenced on 2 October 1998. His was the first conviction ever for genocide and it was the first time that an international tribunal ruled that rape and other forms of sexual violence could constitute genocide. It was also the first conviction of an individual for rape as a crime against humanity.
Akayesu lodged two appeals including some forty grounds of appeal, which were subsequently added to and amended. His principal ground of appeal was that he had not been represented by counsel of his choice.
The Appeals Chamber ruled that the right of appeal for an indigent person to be represented by a lawyer free of charge did not imply the right to select the advocate to be assigned to defend him. The Chamber expressed the view that in this case there had been an abuse of the right of an indigent accused to legal aid at the expense of the international community.
Other grounds concerning the lack of independence or impartiality of the Tribunal, irregularities in the examination of witnesses and his illegal detention were also rejected, as was Akayesu’s appeal against the life sentence imposed upon him.
Kayishema and Ruzindana were found guilty of crimes of genocide and sentenced on 21 May 1999. Kayishema was found guilty of four counts of genocide and Ruzindana was found guilty of one count of genocide. The appeal was based on several grounds including lack of equality of arms, defective indictment and inadequate proof against the accused.
The Appeals Chamber, after examining the arguments, ruled that it was convinced that the Trial Chamber did not commit any error on a question of law or error of fact in the case. It therefore affirmed the decision made by the Trial Chamber when convicting and sentencing the accused.
The Prosecution also appealed against the decision by the Trial Chamber arguing that the accused ought to have been convicted on all counts. But the Prosecutor’s appeal was dismissed because it was outside prescribed time limits.
All the three convicts will be transferred from the Tribunal’s detention facility in Arusha to serve their sentences in the jails of any of the three countries with which the Tribunal has an agreement for this purpose. The countries are Benin, Mali and Swaziland. (for the full texts of the two judgements see our Web Site).