Small States in an Unstable Region--Rwanda and Burundi, 1999-2000

By Filip Reyntjens | Go to book overview

4.
Justice

4.1 Rwanda

When the supreme court was renewed on 12 July 1999, the predominance of the Tutsis in the judiciary was again confirmed: of the presidents of the court and its five departments, four are Tutsi and two are Hutu. The former general prosecutor, Siméon Rwagasore, became the president of the Supreme Court, while the former general secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Gérald Gahima, succeeded him as the general prosecutor.1 Three of the four presidents of the appeal courts are also Tutsis, as are the majority of the presidents of the county courts (tribunaux de première instance) and the state prosecutors.

Two structural elements during the period under review should be mentioned. In the first instance, as was to be expected,2 the time allowed for the regularization of preventive detention, which was extended until 31 December 1999 by the 26 December 1997 law, was extended once again by 18 months until 30 June 2001. This means that people arrested in mid-1994 will have spent seven years in detention, without the legality of the latter having been subject to the slightest form of judicial control; numerous detainees have never even seen a judge. Secondly, also at the end of December, the general prosecutor to the supreme court published an updated list of the first category of persons pursued or accused, prescribed by the 1996 organic law on the genocide.3 Just like the previous list, this one was controversial, in particular because it contained the names of persons who have died, some of whom, moreover, were killed by the RPF. For certain other people, the list appeared to be more of an instrument for political intimidation than a judicial instrument. The case of Leonidas Rusatira is illustrative. A general in the ex-FAR who was “re-integrated” into the RPA at the beginning of 1995, he left Rwanda in November 1995 and went into exile in Brussels, from where he expressed positions critical of the regime. Denouncing the “purely political nature” of his inclusion on the list, Rusatira declared that “the system in force in Kigali wishes, by trivializing the genocide to make of it an endless source of political exploitation, to put an end to the slightest expression of protest and demands by resorting to all possible means to gag all the leaders of opinion and to eliminate potential interlocutors”.4 This interpretation is shared by the former Minister for Justice, Faustin Nteziryayo, who considers that “the drawing up of this list has served more as a political agenda to eliminate the personalities of the former regime who are considered political opponents, or other people who have a certain influence in civil society, than in advancing pursuits enabling the identification of those who are genuinely responsible for the Rwandan drama”.5 Furthermore, in the opposite direction but following the same logic, the name of Boniface Rucagu, who now serves the regime as Préfet of Ruhengeri has disappeared from the list.

Amnesty International is concerned by the persistence of inadmissible practices: prolonged illegal detention, political and arbitrary arrests, torture and putting to death in the places of detention (particularly in the military establishments access to which is forbidden to foreign observers), re-arrests after release and even the assassination of people who have been released and of their families.6 Nevertheless, the quality of justice in the genocide trials has continued to improve. We only have the data for the first half of 1999,7 but the trends are clear: we observe an

____________________
1
Gahima was replaced at the Ministry of Justice in February 1999 in the context of an operation which was aimed at calming public opinion which was anxious about the hold of the akazu on the institutions; however, just like Gahima, the other personalities who were dismissed at the time have since found other important jobs.
2
F. REYNTJENS, “Evolution politique au Rwanda et au Burundi, 1997–1998”, L'Afrique des Grands Lacs. Annuaire 1997–1998, Paris, L'Harmattan, 1998, p.83.
3
Journal officiel, Special issue, 31 December 1999.
4
Letter sent on 8 February 2000 by L. Rusatira to the general prosecutor, G. Gahima.
5
F. NTEZIRYAYO, “Enlisement…”, op.cit., p.6.
6
Amnesty International, Rwanda. The troubled course…, op.cit.
7
Sources: Project Justice for All in Rwanda, Rapport semestriel, 1st semester 1999; LIPRODHOR, Regard rétrospectif sur les procès de génocide au Rwanda, Kigali, October 1999.

-15-

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Small States in an Unstable Region--Rwanda and Burundi, 1999-2000
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Contents 3
  • Abstract *
  • 1 - Introduction 4
  • 2 - Governance and Institutions 5
  • 3 - Human Rights 12
  • 4 - Justice 15
  • 5 - Civil Wars, Opposition and Political Dialogue 19
  • 6 - Conclusion and Perspectives 23
  • Acronyms 24
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