In a busy judicial week, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) heard cases involving thirteen accused persons. First the Prosecution applied for permission to amend the indictments against eight of the accused. Those concerned then made initial appearances in respect of the amended indictments. Finally, the Prosecution applied for the cases to be joined into three groups for trial.
The hearings gave effect to the decisions by the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal, two months ago, which ruled against interlocutory appeals regarding jurisdiction against the Prosecutor's joinder motions in the cases of Kanyabashi vs The Prosecutor and Nsengiyumva vs The Prosecutor.
The three Trial Chambers, sitting simultaneously for the first time, heard motions seeking leave to amend indictments against Elie Ndayambaje, a former Bourgmestre of Muganza; Joseph Kanyabashi, a former Bourgmestre of Ngoma, and the indictment in the joint case of former Minister of Family and Women's Affairs, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and her son ArsP ne Shalom Ntahobali, a former militia leader. The Prosecutor also sought amendments of the joint indictment against Sylvain Nsabimana, a former Prefect of Butare, and Alphonse Nteziryayo, a former Commanding Officer of the Military Police and Prefect of Butare.
Motions for the amendment of indictments against Theoneste Bagosora, a former Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defence; Anatole Nsengiyumva, a former Lieutenant-Colonel in the Rwanda Armed Forces (FAR); Aloys Ntabakuze, a former Commander of a Battalion in the FAR and Gratien Kabiligi, a former Brigadier-General in the FAR, were also heard by the Trial Chambers.
The amendments, the Prosecution said, were based on new evidence following ongoing investigations. It argued that investigations had unearthed clear evidence of the plan of certain people in Rwanda to maintain political control over the country by eliminating the Tutsi population.
The amendments included additional charges against the accused, and in the case of Pauline Nyiramasuhuko charges of encouraging sexual violence against Tutsis as part of widespread and systematic attacks on civilians on political, ethnic and racial grounds.
The motions for amendments as requested by the Prosecution, were granted by the Trial Chambers and each of the accused persons entered pleas of "not guilty" to the new charges preferred against them.
Finally three joinder motions were heard by the Trial Chambers. The motions sought to join:
André Ntagerura, a former Minister of Transport with Emmanuel Bagambiki, a former Prefect of Cyangugu and Samuel Imanishiwe, a former Lieutenant in the RAF, in what the Prosecution calls the "Cyangugu Group";
Elie Ndayambaje, with Joseph Kanyabashi, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, ArsP ne Shalom Ntahobali, Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo, in what is called the "Butare Group"; and
Théoneste Bagosora, with Aloys Ntabakuze, Gratien Kabiligi, and Anatole Nsengiyumva, in what is called the " Military Group".
The Prosecution argued that there was evidence of conspiracy and participation with others in the commission of the offences the accused are jointly charged with. Holding joint trials would avoid witnesses having to testify repeatedly about the same facts in different cases and would minimize the trauma that they might suffer. Joint trials would also enable optimal use of the Tribunal's judicial resources.
During the hearing of the joinder application for the "Butare Group" the Tribunal's President Judge Navanethem Pillay said that these applications and defence arguments raised very serious issues which would be fully considered by the Chambers in what would probably be a lengthy deliberation.