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Ex-Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda pleads guilty to genocide

In a historic event that accentuated not only the role of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as a court of justice but also as an instrument to facilitate national reconciliation in Rwanda, Jean Kambanda, former Prime Minister of Rwanda, today pleaded guilty to the crime of genocide and other charges at his initial appearance before the Tribunal's Trial Chamber 1 comprising Judges Laïty Kama (Senegal), presiding, Lennart Aspegren (Sweden), and Navanethem Pillay (South Africa).

Kambanda's confession of guilt before the Rwanda Tribunal in Arusha is the first time in history that an accused person has acknowledged and affirmed his or her guilt for the crime of genocide before an international criminal tribunal.

The Indictment

The indictment against jean Kambanda, read out in a packed courtroom by the Registrar of the Tribunal, Mr. Agwu Ukiwe Okali (Nigeria), charged the accused with six counts of Genocide, Conspiracy to Commit Genocide, Complicity in Genocide, Direct and Public Incitement to Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity by virtue of Articles 2 and 3 of the Statute of the Tribunal.

In a statement of the facts contained in the indictment against the accused, the Deputy Prosecutor of the Tribunal, Mr. Bernard Muna (Cameroon) averred that, Kambanda, as Prime Minister and Head of Government of Rwanda from 8 April 1994 to around 17 July 1994, presided over meetings of the Council of Ministers at which the massacres committed against Tutsi civilian population were discussed - but no action was taken to stop them. These meetings were attended by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, then Minister of Family and Social Welfare, André Ntagerura, then Minister of Transport (and both presently in the custody of the Tribunal at its detention facility in Arusha), among others. Kambanda "failed in his duty to protect the security of the Rwandan population", the indictment stated.

By his various acts and omissions described in the indictment, Jean K ambanda was charged with being responsible for the killing of and causing serious bodily or mental harm to Tutsi with intent to wholly or partially destroy an ethnic or racial group (Genocide); conspiring with Ministers of his Government, such as Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, André Ntagerura, Eliezer Niyitegeka and Edouard Karemera to commit Genocide; directly and publicly inciting genocide through his broadcast on the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). Furthermore, Kambanda was responsible for the murder and extermination of civilians as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population on ethnic or racial grounds, and thereby committed Crimes Against Humanity.

Kambanda Pleads Guilty

Following the rendition of the indictment by the Registrar, the presiding judge of Trial Chamber 1 requested the accused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Kambanda pleaded guilty on all six counts of the charges against him. He emphasised that he admitted his guilt "freely and voluntarily", with a full understanding of all the charges and the consequences of his pleading guilty. Jean Kambanda further stated that his plea was unequivocal, and affirmed having reached an agreement with the Prosecutor on all these considerations. The Trial Chamber, considering the factual and legal basis of the case against Jean Kambanda, the latter's plea of guilty, and his agreement with the Prosecutor, formally pronounced Kambanda guilty of Genocide, Conspiracy to Commit Genocide, Direct and Public Incitement to Genocide, Complicity in Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity.

By pleading guilty to the charges against him, Jean Kambanda acknowledged, among others, that:-

As Prime Minister he exercised de jure authority and control over members of his Government, as well as over senior civil servants and senior officers in the military, including the Préfets - the highest level Government officials in the Prefectures (regions).

He participated in the dismissal of Jean-Baptiste Habyalimana, the only Préfet of Tutsi origin, and replaced Habyalimana with another Préfet, which made possible the start of massacres of civilian Tutsi population in Butare.

Between 8 April and 17 July 1994 in Butare and Gitarama prefectures, Jean Kambanda distributed arms and ammunition to members of political parties, militias and the population, with the knowledge that these arms would be used in the perpetration of the massacres of civilians - the majority of whom were members of the Tutsi population.

On or about 21 June 1994, he spoke on RTLM and encouraged it to continue to incite the massacres of the Tutsi civilian population, specifically stating that this radio station was "an indispensable weapon in the fight against the enemy".

At a Government meeting in Kibuye on 3 May 1994, chaired by him, a participant directly asked the Prime Minister how to protect children who had survived the massacres and who were at the hospital. Jean Kambanda offered no response, and none of his Ministers offered a satisfactory response. On the same day, after the meeting, the children were killed.

As Prime Minister, between 8 April 1994 and 31 May 1994, he ordered the setting up of road-blocks, with the knowledge that these roadblocks were used to identify the Tutsi and moderate Hutu, to separate and to eliminate them. Jean Kambanda acknowledged that he was near a roadblock located in front of the residence of Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, Minister of Family and Women Affairs, in May and June 1994, and that Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, with his knowledge, participated in the massacres committed in Butare. Kambanda's presence at the roadblock in front of Pauline Nyiramasuhuko's residence showed his support for the acts she was committing. Again, in his capacity as Prime Minister, Jean Kambanda failed in his duty to ensure the security of the Rwandan population.

Pre-Sentencing Procedure and Penalties

Jean Kambanda's plea of guilty and the acceptance of that plea by the Trial Chamber means that he will not have a trial, having waived that right. A pre-sentencing procedure under the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Tribunal (Rules) will be the next step in the Kambanda case, followed by the imposition of a penalty by the Trial Chamber. Rule 100 of the Rules provides: "If the accused pleads guilty or if a Trial Chamber finds the accused guilty of a crime, the Prosecutor and the Defence may submit any relevant information that may assist the Trial Chamber in determining an appropriate sentence". Jean Kambanda, through his counsel, Oliver Michael Inglis and the Office of the Prosecutor have recorded their intention to individually file pre-sentencing briefs as envisaged in Rule 100.

Following Jean Kambanda's Initial Appearance and his plea of guilty, the judges of Trial Chamber 1, the Registrar, the Deputy Prosecutor and the Defence held a Status Conference, during which they set the date of 31 August 1998 for the pre-sentencing hearing.

Regarding penalties, Rule 101 (8) provides that, in determining the sentence, the Trial Chamber will consider such factors as the gravity of the offence and the individual circumstances of the convicted person, as well as such factors as, among others "any mitigating circumstances including the substantial co-operation with the Prosecutor by the convicted person before or after conviction".

Jean Kambanda

jean Kambanda was born on 19 October 1955 in Gishamvu commune, Butare Prefecture, Republic of Rwanda. He was Prime Minister of the Government of Rwanda from 8 April 1994 until he left the country on or about 17 July 1994. An economist by training, Kambanda worked in the field of insurance and later became a banking official in the Banque Populaire. He was a member of the MDR (Mouvement démocratique républicain) party, one of five political parties from which the 19 members of the Council of Ministers in Kambanda's Government were appointed three days after the plane crash in which Juvenal Habyarimana, former President of Rwanda, was killed. Kambanda had earlier served as the vice-president and later president of MDR in Butare. He is married and has two children.

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