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Rwanda genocide tribunal upholds convictions of ex-military officer, businessman

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Wednesdayaffirmed the convictions [press release] of ex-army officer Ephrem Setako and former businessman Yussuf Munyakazi [case materials] on charges stemming from the 1994 Rwandan genocide [JURIST news archive]. The Appeals Chamber dismissed Setako's appeal in its entirety and affirmed his conviction on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and murder of Tutsi at a military camp in northern Rwanda between April and May 1994. The prosecution's appeal in Setako's case was partially granted, with the court entering a new conviction against Setako related to the killings in May 1994. The Appeals Chamber determined that an additional conviction of murder as a serious violation of Article 3 [text] of the Geneva Convention was warranted for Setako but did not increase the length of his sentence. In affirming the conviction of Munyakazi on charges of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity, the Appeals Chamber dismissed appeals [judgment, PDF] by both the defense and prosecution. The trial court found Munyakazi liable for the deaths of more than 5,000 Tutsi civilians during the 1994 genocide and found that he "intended to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group in whole or in part." Munyakazi challenged the trial chamber's assessment of the evidence presented at trial, as well as assessment of the legal elements of the crimes for which he was charged. The Appeals Chamber found no error in either the trial chamber's weighing of evidence or interpretation of the elements of the crimes. The Appeals Chamber also determined that both Setako and Munyakazi should be credited for the time they have spent in prison since their arrests.

Setako was convicted and sentenced [JURIST report] to 25 years in prison in February 2010 by the Trial Chamber of the ICTR. His trial began [JURIST report] in August 2008. Setako was arrested in the Netherlands in February 2004 and later transferred to a UN detention facility. He subsequently pleaded not guilty. In July 2010, Munyakazi was also sentenced to 25 years in prison [JURIST report] by the Trial Chamber of the ICTR. Rwandan authorities had sought to have Munyakazi transferred to Rwanda for trial, but that request and the subsequent appeal were both denied [JURIST report] based on concerns that the judiciary in Rwanda may not be fully independent and immune from outside pressure. The ICTR has transferred some cases to the Rwandan courts, including the case [JURIST reports] of former Rwandan pastor Jean-Bosco Uwinkindi [case materials], as part of a strategy intended to finish the court's trial work by 2011. Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga told the UN Security Council last year that the decisions by the ICTR not to transfer pending cases to Rwandan jurisdiction, including genocide suspect Jean-Baptiste Gatete [case materials], undermine judicial reforms [JURIST report] and hinder national reconciliation. JURIST Guest Columnist and former Managing Editor Ingrid Burke, who has personal experience at the ICTR, argues that some cases ought to be referred to Rwandan courts [JURIST op-ed], suggesting that doing so "is in the best interest of both the Rwandan judiciary's stability and the benefit of international criminal law in the future."

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