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Rwanda genocide tribunal hears appeal of ex-army officer

The Appeals Chamber for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Tuesday heard oral arguments [scheduling order, PDF] 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 [judgment, PDF]. Before a panel of five judges, Ntabakuze's lawyer requested an acquittal of the conviction [HNA report] because the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence and failed to provide adequate notice of the charges. The prosecution said that the indictment [text, PDF] provided Ntabakuze with adequate notice to defend his case. The Trial Chamber charged and convicted Ntabakuze in a case known as "Military I" that joined two other former army officers, Theoneste Bagosora and Anatole Nsengiyumva [HJP profiles]. The ICTR separated Ntabakuze's case from his co-defendants' after his lawyer failed to attend schedule oral arguments before the Appeals Chamber in March.

The former head of Ntabakuze's defense, US lawyer and JURIST Forum [website] contributor Peter Erlinder [JURIST news archive], grabbed international attention earlier this year before the ICTR removed him from the case [JURIST report] in April for failing to appear at Ntabakuze's scheduled oral arguments. Erlinder claimed that he did not travel to the tribunal because his life was in danger and that he was on a reported hit list consisting of the opponents of Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website]. In October 2010, Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga announced that Erlinder would be summoned to face charges of genocide denial [JURIST report] in Rwanda, after Erlinder said that it was incorrect to place the blame for the 1994 Rwandan genocide [JURIST news archive] on one side. Erlinder returned to the US in June 2010 after spending 21 days in a Rwandan prison following his arrest [JURIST reports] on genocide denial charges.

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