The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on 16 June 2006 ruled that the Trial Chambers must take judicial notice of the following facts:
1) The existence of Twa, Tutsi and Hutu as protected groups falling under the Genocide Convention;
2) The following state of affairs existed in Rwanda between 6 April 1994 to 17 July 1994: there were throughout Rwanda widespread or systematic attacks against a civilian population based on Tutsi ethnic identification. During the attacks, some Rwandan citizens killed or caused serious bodily or mental harm to person[s] perceived to be Tutsi. As a result of the attacks, there were a large number of deaths of persons of Tutsi ethnic identity;
3) Between 6 April 1994 and 17 July 1994 there was genocide in Rwanda against Tutsi ethnic group.
This land mark decision was delivered by the Appeals Chamber on Prosecutor's Appeal on Judicial Notice, dated 16 June 2006, in the trial of Prosecutor v. Karemera, Ngirumpatse and Nzirorera, ICTR-98-44-AR73 (C). The decision will have an immediate impact on the trial proceedings in the Karemera et al case, and will be felt in all of the current and pending trials before the Trial Chambers of the ICTR. Judicial notice of the above matters means that they are to be taken as established beyond any dispute and not requiring any proof.
This is one of the most significant rulings of the Tribunal, given the consequences in terms of putting the occurrence of the genocide beyond legal dispute. It can be recalled that until now the OTP has had to in each case lead evidence and prove the occurrence of the genocide. This will no longer be necessary.
In the view of the OTP the ruling should now silence the ‘rejectionist’ camp which has been disputing the occurrence of genocide. By relieving the OTP of a substantial burden of proof the ruling has the potential to shorten the cases as each will essentially focus on the personal involvement of the accused person in genocide.