Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda - ICTR

Expert Testimony of Binaifer Nowrojee

Need to Maintain Sexual Violence Charges in the Muvunyi Case

Rwandan Rape Victims Denied Justice at the ICTR

In March 2003, the Coalition addressed a letter to Prosecutor Del Ponte to express concern that sexual violence investigations and prosecutions were faltering under her stewardship. The Coalition was gravely concerned that unless immediate and effective steps were taken to rectify the situation Rwandan women would be denied justice by the ICTR. In July 2003, the Coalition urged United Nations? Secretary General Kofi Annan to consider this issue as he made his decision on whether to renew Carla Del Ponte as prosecutor of the ICTR. At the end of July 2003, the Secretary General announced his decision to replace Carla Del Ponte.

Failure to Charge Sexual Violence in the Cyangugu Case

In October and November of 2000, evidence of rape and other sexual violence was brought forth in the case of the Prosecutor vs. Bagambiki et al. following testimonies of two prosecution witnesses. Despite this evidence, the indictment in the case did not include charges of rape or sexual violence. In February 2001, an amicus curiae brief was filed by the Coalition, asking the court to invite the prosecutor to consider amending the indictment by adding charges of rape and sexual violence. The Defence Council opposed this motion. However, after receiving the brief, Prosecutor Del Ponte announced that she would add charges of sexual violence in the indictment. This announcement partly influenced the court's refusal to grant the leave to file the amicus curiae brief.

On July 11, 2001, the Coalition sent a memo to the Registrar of the ICTR to have the court reconsider its reasoning in its decision to deny leave to file the amicus, and also as stated in the memo, because of a perceived misapplication by the Trial Chamber III of the relevant standard inherent in Rule 74 of the ICTR Rules of Procedure and Evidence. Two years later, as outlined in a letter to Kofi Annan, charges of sexual violence had yet to be filed in the case despite Prosecutor Del Ponte?s Response to the Application for Leave to File an Amicus Curae brief, on May 8, 2001: "The Prosecutor advises that as soon as possible, she intends to file new indictments against accused Emmanuel Bagambiki and Samuel Imanishimwe containing rape charges.".

On February 27, 2004, the ICTR rendered its judgement in the Cyangugu case, convicting Imanishimwe and acquitting Ntagerura and Bagambiki. Women?s groups in Cyangugu protested against the decision which they consider to be a denial of justice by the ICTR.

Witness Protection, Gender and the ICTR

On October 17, 1997, the Coalition sent a letter to Justice Louise Arbour outlining issues of witness protection at the ICTR before, during and after trial; the investigative process and the characterisation of sexual violence in the indictments. A report entitled Witness Protection, Gender and the ICTR was attached to the letter. The report was prepared by Connie Walsh and is based on public sources as well as interviews conducted by Ms Walsh with Rwandese women?s groups, individual women and members of the ICTR staff, in Rwanda in June-July 1997. In 2002, the Coalition prepared a guide on the protection of witnesses' rights for the ICTR.

Accessing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), by Gaelle Breton-Le Goff and Anne Saris

The Akayesu Case: Rape as Genocide

On May 27, 1997, the Coalition filed an amicus curiae brief in the case against Jean-Paul Akayesu requesting an amendment of the indictment and supplementation of the evidence to ensure the prosecution of rape and other sexual violence within the competence of the ICTR. The amicus brief was signed by over 40 human rights organizations, including many Rwandan women?s rights groups. On June 17, 1997, the Prosecutor amended the indictment against Jean-Paul Akayesu to include charges of rape and inhuman treatment.

On October 2, 1998, the ICTR sentenced former mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu to three life sentences for genocide and crimes against humanity and to 80 years for other violations including rape and encouraging widespread sexual violence. It was the first time an international court punished sexual violence in a civil war and the first time rape was found to constitute an act of genocide, as well as an act of torture.

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Official Website)