ICTR Acquits Two High-Ranking Rwandan Officials
The Appeals Chamber of the ICTR has unanimously upheld a Trial Chamber's acquittal of Andre Ntagerura and Emmanuel Bagambiki, two high-ranking Rwandan officials, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The charges stemmed from a series of massacres committed in
The ICTR Statute – like those of the ICTY and ICC – permits the prosecution to appeal an acquittal, reflecting the influence of the civil law on its rules of procedure. (Such appeals are obviously forbidden in the
The acquittals, it’s worth noting, are rare events for the ICTR; since the Tribunal began work in 1994, 20 defendants have been convicted and five (including Ntagerura and Bagambiki) have been acquitted. Ntagerura is also the first minister-level Rwandan official ever acquitted by the Tribunal.
The Appeals Chamber’s decision has not been released yet, so I can’t comment on its legal merits. But the fact that the judges – trial and appellate – are taking seriously the prosecution’s burden of proof in cases as notorious as this one is a good sign both for the ICTR and for international criminal law generally. It's difficult to imagine how a fair tribunal could ever have a perfect conviction record; given the factual and legal complexity of international crimes like genocide, not even the most conscientious investigators and prosecutors can avoid ensnaring at least a few defendants who are innocent or whose guilt cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. After all, the Nuremberg Tribunal itself, with its overwhelming evidence of guilt, resulted in three acquittals.