The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, sitting in Arusha, has completed the hearing of Jean Kambanda’s appeal against his conviction on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The Chamber will deliver its decision at a later date.
Mr. Kambanda, the former Rwandan Prime Minister, pleaded guilty to genocide and crimes against humanity and was sentenced to life imprisonment on 4 September 1998. He has appealed against that sentence and later requested that his guilty plea be quashed and that he stand trial.
Before the Appeals Chamber, Jean Kambanda claimed that the process leading to his guilty plea was tainted. He said that he was not assigned the lawyer of his choice and that even when he finally did receive legal representation the assignment of the lawyer was influenced by the prosecution. He also accused his defense counsel, Mr. Oliver Michael Inglis, of inadequate representation. In addition, he claimed that the Registry had organized his detention in facilities where he was isolated from other detainees and that he felt oppressed by these arrangements. The prosecution argued that under the rules of the Tribunal, indigent suspects do not have an absolute right to have a specific attorney assigned to their case. Mr. Kambanda’s original choice of counsel had been removed from the Registrar’s list of eligible attorneys due to unsatisfactory conduct in a previous case. The Prosecution pointed out that, for a while, Mr. Kambanda had refused any legal representation until the Registry told him that in the interest of justice he had to be represented by counsel. He subsequently requested the Registry, in writing, to assign Mr. Inglis as his defence counsel.
Mr. Kambanda had been arrested in Nairobi by the Kenyan authorities on July 18, 1997 and was transferred to Arusha the same day.
At his initial appearance on May 1, 1998 Mr. Kambanda, was asked by the Trial Chamber:
i. whether his guilty plea was entered voluntarily, in other words, if he did so freely and knowingly, without pressure, threats, or promises;
ii. whether he clearly understood the charges against him as well as the consequences of his guilty plea; and
iii. whether his guilty plea was unequivocal, in other words, if he was aware that the said plea could not be refuted by any line of defense.
He responded in the affirmative to all these questions, on the strength of which the Chamber entered a plea of guilty against him.