The Appeals Chamber of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda today dismissed in its entirety the appeal by Eliezer Niyitegeka, Minister of Information of Rwanda’s Interim Government in 1994, and affirmed his conviction and sentence to imprisonment for the remainder of his life.
The Appeals Chamber composed of Judges Theodor Meron of the United States, presiding, Mohamed Shahabuddeen (Guyana), Florence Mumba (Zambia), Wolfgang Schomburg (Germany) and Ines Monica Weinberg de Roca (Argentina) ordered that Niyitegeka remain in the custody of the Tribunal pending his transfer to the State in which he will serve his sentence.
Niyitegeka’s appeal brief contained 53 points that he argued represented grounds for overturning his conviction. The Appellant challenged all the findings in the May 2003 decision of the Trial Chamber arguing that the findings and decision could not have been reached by a reasonable court and that his trial was in breach of his statutory right to a fair trial.
The Appeals Chamber dismissed all of them except two in which the Appellant argued that he had insufficient notice of material facts underpinning the charges against him. The Appeals Chamber ruled that the Prosecution committed an error by not providing adequate notice to the defendant that he would face specific charges of criminal action related to an attack on Tutsi refugees at Kivumu at the end of April or the beginning of May 1994 and that he participated in an attack of Tutsi at Muyira Hill on 14 May 1994.
However, the Appeals Chamber ruled that these errors of law did not invalidate the Trial Chamber’s decision because no conviction on any count of the indictment rested solely on the material facts concerning the attacks at Kivumu and Muyira Hill.
The Chamber also found that the legal errors did not mitigate the seriousness of the remaining crimes for which the Appellant was convicted in a case that was properly tried under fair procedures. The Appeals Chamber also stated that the errors did not affect the sentence imposed by the Trial Chamber.
The Appeals Chamber dismissed the argument that the Trial Chamber erred in its consideration of the evidence Niyitegeka offered in his defense and gave insufficient weight to mitigating circumstances. It ruled that the Appellant had not shown that the Trial Chamber’s decision exceeded the discretion conferred upon it in matters of sentencing.
On 15 May 2003 Trial Chamber I unanimously convicted Niyitegeka of genocide and crimes against humanity. He was found guilty of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. He was also found guilty of murder, extermination and other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity. The Trial chamber acquitted the Appellant on four counts of the indictment: complicity in genocide, rape as a crime and two counts of serious violations of Article 3 Common to Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II.
Niyitegeka was found, inter alia, to have procured gendarmes for an attack on Tutsi hiding inside Mubuga Church, to have led armed attackers in two attacks on Tutsi refugees at Muyira Hill, and to have incited Interahamwe and other people to exterminate members of the Tutsi population.
Niyitegeka, 52, was a member of the Mouvement Démocratique Républicain (MDR) political party in Rwanda, and Chairman of Kibuye Prefecture from 1991 to 1994.The Appellant was represented by Counsel Sylvia Geraghty from the United Kingdom and Feargal Kavanagh from Ireland.
During its session in Arusha from 7 to 9 July, the Appeals Chamber also heard the joint appeal of Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and Gérard Ntakirutimana, father and son who were convicted in February 2003, as well as the Prosecutor appeal. Decision in the case is expected soon.