Judgment Day

By Halina Schiffman-Shilo

“There will be no humanity without forgiveness. There will be no forgiveness without justice. But justice will be impossible without humanity.”

-Yolande Mukagasana. Inscribed in the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

On December 20, the ICTR delivered its last judgment. Augustin Ngirabatware, indicted in 1999 for his alleged role in the Rwandan genocide, was found guilty of genocide, direct and public incitement to genocide, and rape by Trial Chamber II. He was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment.

Since our arrival in August, those of us interns designated to Chambers worked almost exclusively on the Ngirabatware case. We reviewed the files, discussed (and at times argued) its legal and factual points, and even visited some places in Rwanda where crimes particular to this case were committed. In short, we spent the last four months living and breathing Ngirabatware.

And on judgment day, we were in the courtroom.



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Justice Delayed

By Halina Schiffman-Shilo

Last week, judges from the ICTR Appeals Court in The Hague flew to Arusha to deliver the judgment in the Gatete appeals case.

The gallery was packed. We interns nearly filled the first row, chatting and adjusting our headsets to the right language channel—proceedings are simultaneously translated into French and English—before the proceedings began. Along the back row sat former alleged genocidaires, men who were acquitted at earlier trials and were present at the hearing to support their friend who was still on trial. The lead defense attorney came into the gallery and greeted each man warmly, inquiring after their families. The freed men nodded to the accused in a show of solidarity as he was sitting in the courtroom, awaiting judgment.

In 1993,  Jean-Baptiste Gatete was the mayor of Murambi Commune and a member of the MRND, the party of assassinated Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana. He was accused of organizing and arming the Interahamwe to attack and kill Tutsis. Apprehended in the Republic of Congo in 2002, he was brought to Arusha to await trial, a trial that didn’t begin until 2009.

Last year, Mr. Gatete was found guilty of genocide and of extermination as a crime against humanity. He was sentenced to life in prison. He was then 58 years old.

Mr. Gatete is a seemingly humble man of average height. At the Appeals hearing, he gave a brief and solemn statement, thanking his wife and remembering the many Tutsi who were murdered. I don’t know what I imagined a genocidaire to look like, but to me, he looked like an ordinary elderly man, someone you’d give up your seat for on the subway. After his statement, he sat down and smiled at his wife and friends in the gallery.

Amongst the many counts Mr. Gatete was challenging, the Appeals Chamber granted only one: his right to trial without undue delay.

The Appeals Court found “that the extent of pre-trial delay disproportionately exceeded the time reasonable….and constitute[d] prejudice.” Though the ICTR has rules dictating the rights of detainees, Mr. Gatete was still confined in a small room with few liberties for seven years before trial even began.

Yes, at trial Mr. Gatete was found guilty and his guilt was affirmed by the Appeals Court. But for the seven years he spent in pre-trial detention, he was, or should have been, presumed innocent.



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