The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Friday acquitted [press release] two former Rwandan ministers, Casimir Bizimungu and Jerome Bicamumpaka, of genocide charges due to a lack of sufficient evidence. This decision is the most high-profile acquittal of the officials involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backrounder; JURIST news archive] during which 800,000 people were killed. The ICTR ordered the immediate release [Reuters report] of Bizimungu, Rwanda's former health minister and Bicamumpaka, Rwanda's former foreign affairs minister. The Trial Chamber convicted both Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza for conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide, sentencing both individuals to 30 years in prison. Mugenzi and Mugiraneza were convicted of conspiracy to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide for participating in the removal of Butare's Tutsi Prefect, Jean-Baptiste Habyalimana, and based on their participation in a joint criminal enterprise at the installation ceremony where President Theodore Sindikubwabo gave a speech inciting the killing of Tutsis. The trial commenced in 2004 and consisted of nearly 400 days of trial, during which the ICTR heard evidence from witnesses.
On Tuesday, the Appeals Chamber for the ICTR heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in the case of Aloys Ntabakuze [HJP profile], a former Rwandan army officer convicted of genocide and related crimes. Ntabakuze appealed his December 2008 conviction, in which the Trial Chamber sentenced him to life imprisonment. Before a panel of five judges, Ntabakuze's lawyer requested an acquittal of the conviction because the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence and failed to provide adequate notice of the charges. Also on Tuesday, the Appeals Chamber heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in the appeal of Dominique Ntawukulilyayo, the former Sub-Prefect of the southern region of Gisagara. The five judges composing the Appeals Chamber will decide whether the Trial Chamber committed a number of errors of law and fact, as alleged by Ntawukulilyayo, who seeks a reversal of his conviction, an acquittal and immediate release or, in the alternative, a reduction of his sentence.