Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations

Letter to Prosecutor Hassan Jallow

February 8, 2005

Prosecutor Hassan Jallow
Office of the Prosecutor
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Fax :

Dear Prosecutor Jallow:

It is with great alarm and concern that we have learned of your decision to drop the rape charges against accused Tharcisse Muvunyi, former commander of the military district of Butare and Gikongoro. We strongly urge you to modify your motion to drop those charges by clarifying that the motion is made without prejudice to amend the indictment anew, if circumstances so warrant.

As you know, the prefecture of Butare was particularly devastated by killings and sexual violence. Women's groups in the Butare area have been active in organizing themselves and in speaking out about the sexual violence committed against them. Human Rights and women's rights groups such as AVEGA, Human Rights Watch and African Rights have documented the sexual violence committed in Butare. African Rights has collected testimony linking the accused with rapes of women and girls. (1)

Your office has brought command responsibility charges for rape against some of the highest officials operating in the Butare area, including Pauline Nyiramasuhuko.  This signals that your office is aware of the sexual violence that occurred in that area and the fact that these state actors bear responsibility for their actions. In our view, to then withdraw rape charges against a former military commander under their authority and operating in the same geographical area is not consistent with the above indictments. If there is command responsibility at the higher levels, then surely a military leader under them who pursued such policies would also bear command responsibility?  We urge you to adopt a consistent prosecution strategy to the rape charges that is integrated through the cases.

We understand that the stated concern is that strong evidence has not been collected for the rape charges in this case.  However, this is not a problem exclusive to the Muvunyi case.  The problem, as you well know, is that sexual violence investigations have not been vigorously and effectively pursued to date.

Instead of dropping rape charges as a response to inadequate investigations, we urge you to immediately and vigorously renew your sexual violence investigations.  With a dynamic and committed team of investigators working in coordination with the prosecuting attorneys you could in a short time compile stronger evidence in this case. With political will on your part, you could redress the sexual violence investigations and build a comprehensive prosecution strategy for sexual violence. The Special Court for Sierra Leone, with only two gender investigators, was able to compile their evidence for all their cases in the space of one year.

The record of the ICTR prosecutions on rape remains shameful to date. An examination of the completed cases shows that your office did not bring rape charges in 70% of the cases in which judgments have been delivered.  Of the 30% of cases in which there were rape charges, 20% have resulted in acquittals and only 10 % in rape convictions.  Given the widespread sexual violence that occurred during the genocide, and its varied forms such as rapes, gang-rapes, rapes with objects, sexual slavery and sexual mutilation, it is clear that sufficient efforts have not been made to investigate or comprehensively and effectively prosecute this crime.  Please do not continue to perpetrate this injustice against Rwanda's women by dropping rape charges against Muvunyi.

We strongly urge you to withdraw or modify your motion to drop rape charges in the Muvunyi case and instead to urgently allocate a committed and dynamic investigator to work devotedly on securing the evidence that exists in Butare.


Ariane Brunet
Women's Rights Coordinator at Rights & Democracy, Montreal, Canada, on behalf of the Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations and the following human rights and civil society organizations, including women's rights associations based in Rwanda :

  • Abasa (Women's association based in Butare, Rwanda)
  • Arfem
  • Association rwandaise des journalistes
  • Pro-femmes/ Twese Hamwe
  • Réseau des femmes oeuvrant pour le développement rural
  • Rwanda Women Network
  • Sevota

Mr. Bongani Majola, ICTR Deputy Prosecutor ( )
Mr. Richard Renaud, ICTR, Chief of Investigations ()


     1) African Rights, Lt. Col. Tharcisse Muvunyi : A Rwandese Genocide Commander living in Britain. April 2000, 109 pages. (Issue 12)  Retour

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Official Website)