Global Policy Forum

ICTR to Hear Closing Arguments in MRND Case

On August 22, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) opened the hearing of the closing arguments in the trial of former MRND leaders. The MRND was the ruling party in 1994, when an estimated 800.000 people were killed. The accused, former President of MRND Matthieu Ngirumpatse and former vice President Edourd Karemera, are charged with genocide, incitement to commit genocide and for other crimes against humanity committed by other members their party. The trial has been ongoing since 2003, and is now on its 374th trial day. However, the Chamber expects the judgment to be handed down before the end of this year.

Hirondelle News Agency
August 18, 2011

Hearing of the closing arguments in the trial of former top Rwandan politicians will open next Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Known as "Karemera et al", the case involves two leaders of MRND, Rwandan ruling party in 1994, its President Matthieu Ngirumpatse and Vice President, Edourd Karemera. They are charged with seven counts including genocide, complicity in genocide, incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity committed mostly by members of their party.

Originally, this  trial which started in November 2003 included two others suspects : MRND Secretary General, Joseph Nzirorera and former Rwandan minister for Education, Andre Rwamakuba. However, this first trial was canceled in May 2004 amid allegations that the then Presiding Judge, Adresia Vaz had been impartial, compelling her to resign.

On June 9, 2005 Rwamakuba was granted a separate trial. He was finally acquitted on September 20, 2006.

The prosecution completed its case on December 2007 and on April 7, 2008 Karemera fielded his first witness. Unfortunately, the trial had to be suspended due to persistent ill health of Ngirumpatse who was then hospitalized.

On March 23, 2009 the trial resumed with the hearing of Karemera's defence case. He called a total of 35 witnesses.

Joseph Nzirorera took over the floor on October 2009. He was still presenting his defence when he died, on July 1, 2010.

Following the death of Nzirorera, the court ordered amendment of the indictment in accordance with the two remaining accused, Karemera who had already concluded his case and Ngirumpatse who was back in court after he had recovered. Thereafter, on August 24, 2010 Ngirumpatse commenced presenting his defence case.  All along their defence, Karemera and Ngirumpatsitse denied strongly that they and the MRND party had powers to control Interahamwe militias.

During the trial the prosecution fielded 46 witnesses, of whom 30 appeared before the Chamber for direct examination, while the evidence of 16 others was admitted through their written statements. The defence called a total of 74 witnesses to challenge the allegations.

According to records, 35 witnesses testified in Karemera's defence case including himself, while 39 others did the same to Ngirumpatse.

Ngirumpatse was born in 1939 in Ntare commune, Kigali rural prefecture and trained as a lawyer. During 1994 he was President of MRND party and member of its steering committee since 1993. He was arrested in Mali on June 11, 1998 and transferred to the seat of the Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania a month later.

Karemera was born in Mwende commune, Kibuye prefecture, west Rwanda in 1951 and also trained as a lawyer. Like his co-accused he held various senior positions including being minister of Interior in the interim government which took oath on April 8, 1994 until he fled in July, 1994. He was arrested in Togo on June 5, 1998 and transferred to the UN Tribunal on July 10, 1998.

The judgment is expected before December 31, 2011, according to the Chamber.


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